A Look at the Career of Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal

Muhammed Lawal
DUB , Ireland - 14 December 2016; Muhammed 'King Mo' Lawal during the Bellator 169 & BAMMA 27 Press Conference in The Gibson Hotel, Dublin. (Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

In a professional career spanning 30 fights and 10 years, “King Mo” Muhammed Lawal has called it quits from competing competitively in the sport of MMA. American Top Team posted on their Instagram account, releasing the following announcement:

“I just wanted to give @kingmofh a shout out and congrats for all he’s accomplished in this sport. For those that aren’t aware, he’s decided to “hang em up” and dedicate the next chapter of his life to coaching our pro fighters. I have to note, I’ve seen countess fighters train and walk through our doors and King Mo is hands down one of the best teammates I have ever seen. Beyond selfless. Proud to call him a teammate and even more excited to have him working and coaching full time with the squad. All the best Mo!! Congrats on a hell of a career!! Lets keep it positive and show this man some love.”

The Collegiate Wrestling Ranks

Many will argue the base to successful MMA career is a solid wrestling career. Lawal possessed just that. His collegiate wrestling days were spent on the mats at the University of Central Oklahoma before transferring to one of the greatest programs of all time, Oklahoma State University. Lawal graduated high school with a 49-0 state championship high school season at Plano East High School. He earned a 27-12 record as a true freshmen in the 184 pound division in 2000. Lawal also led the team in takedowns with 98.

King Mo’s sophomore season of 2001 saw an emphatic improvement with a record of 37-8 and a birth in the national championship bout, earning runner-up status. He improved his takedown count this season to 155 before dropping the national title to Steve Saxlund of North Dakota State. Saxlund would become a three-time national championship and a NDSU Hall of Famer. As a junior in 2002, Lawal claimed the national championship with an improved record of 39-2. He had a 233-4 takedown advantage to close out his career at Central Oklahoma.

Prior to the 2002 senior season, Lawal made the decision to transfer to wrestling powerhouse Oklahoma State University. Mo jumped up to the 197 pound division, earning All-American honors and a Big XII championship. Even after his collegiate days, Lawal continued wrestling, earning championships on a world class level.

The Eventual Move to MMA

After Lawal did not make the 2008 Olympic team, he decided to enter the world of MMA. His MMA career would come full circle and end in the country where it all began, Japan. Lawal’s debut came on September 28, 2008 at Sengoku 5 in Tokyo, Japan. The debut was not against your typical opponent for your opening match, taking on the 54-11 Travis Wiuff. King Mo walked away that night with a first round knockout. Most of the bout consisted of each fighter looking for their range. Each of Lawal’s jabs got closer and closer before landing a superman punch that sent Wiuff reeling into the ropes. He followed it up with a solid double leg takedown. King Mo followed up the takedown with a barrage of strikes to earn his first victory.

After starting his career 4-0 in Japan, Lawal battled Mark Kurr in his first bout on American soil, winning via first round KO on the M-1 Global: Breakthrough card in Kansas. After climbing to 5-0, King Mo would make the big move, joining the Strikeforce ranks.

Strikeforce Era

The next stage in Lawal’s career came in the Strikeforce organization, where he would win his first world title. After a first round demolishing of Mike Whitehead at Strikeforce: Evolution in December 2009, he would move on to a light heavyweight title fight against Gegard Mousasi at Strikeforce: Nashville in April 2010. After five tough rounds, King Mo’s hand was raised and he was crowned light heavyweight champion via unanimous decision. Lawal would fight under the Strikeforce banner for two more bouts, ending with an unfortunate one year suspension and a release from the organization. The release stemmed from a remark made about Pat Lundvall of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. After his suspension was reduced to nine months, King Mo would make his debut with a new promotion, Bellator.

Bellator Days

Lawal would compete in Bellator a total of 16 times, earning a record of 10-6. Five of those 10 wins were by way of KO/TKO. His introduction to Bellator came at the season 8 light heavyweight tournament. He knocked out Przemyslaw Mysiala in the quarterfinals before running into his proverbial “kryptonite” Emmanuel Newton.

Bellator 2013

King Mo suffered his first loss in Bellator at the hands of Newton via spinning back fist. He rebounded quickly by knocking out Seth Petruzelli at Bellator 96 and another knockout at Bellator 97 to win the Bellator 2013 Summer Series light heavyweight tournament. His prize for winning the tournament…a rematch with Newton at Bellator 106 for the interim title. Newton and Lawal went the full five rounds but Newton, yet again, got his hand raised as the victor. 2013 was tied with 2015 as being the most active year of his career with five fights in each of those respective years.

End of the Bellator Days and the RIZIN Days

Lawal was very active in 2014 and 2015 seeing him compete a total of nine times. Record wise, this could be the best stretch of his career going 8-1 with his only loss a decision to Quinton “Ramage” Jackson. December 2015 saw Lawal go back to the roots of his professional competing career…Japan. He took part in the RIZIN Heavyweight Grand Prix, winning three fights over a three day period defeating Brett McDermott on December 29 and both Teodoras Aukstuolis and Jiri Prochazka on December 31.

2016 saw Lawal take two bouts in Bellator, splitting decisions with Phil Davis (decision loss) and Olympic Judo gold medalist, Satoshi Ishii (decision win.) For the second year in a row, King Mo would return for Japan to compete in RIZIN’s end of the year tournament but this time taking the loss against legend Mirko Cro Cop in the 2016 RIZIN Openweight Grand Prix quarterfinals.

The Final Victory  

Unbeknownst to all, 2017 would see King Mo earn the final victory of his career. On March 31, 2017 at Bellator 175, he would avenge a previous loss, defeating Quinton Jackson via unanimous decision. It would be another 407 days until we would see Lawal compete again in the Bellator cage.

Bellator announced the creation of a heavyweight grand prix tournament which would crown the winner of the tournament as the organization’s heavyweight champion. Lawal was selected to participate in the tournament and faced off with eventual tournament champ, Ryan Bader. After the tough, quick loss to Bader, King Mo turned around to face another stiff test in Liam McGeary for his last Bellator matchup. Though not victorious, Lawal took the former champion deep into the third round in the beautiful state of Hawaii.

The End to a Storied Career

April 21, 2019 saw the end of the King Mo in-cage dynasty when his career came full-circle, fighting his last fight in Japan where fight one took place almost 10 years prior. He would battle Jiri Prochazka at RIZIN 15 in a bout for the RIZIN light heavyweight championship. The two went to the third round but Prochazka got the upper hand ending the bout via TKO. This marked Lawal’s third straight TKO loss. Though this may mark the last time we see him with gloves on, it will be far from the last time we see King Mo in the cage. Lawal is a huge part of the coaching team at American Top Team and will hopefully be present sharing his knowledge in the corner of the world’s best fighters.

Words on King Mo From Many Coaches and Fighters

King Mo has touched the lives of many with his talents and entertained many around the world.

Robbie Lawler (Former UFC Champion and former ATT teammate)

“Mo is one of the best teammates I’ve ever had. He has helped me so much over the years. He is great to have around fight week because he keeps everything light with jokes.”

Steve Mocco (Former American Olympic Wrestler and ATT Coach)

“I have known Mo for the better part of two decades. We have trained together on and off during this time a lot. Weather it is wrestling or MMA he has reached the highest levels of sport. He is an unbelievable competitor and training partner who dives into everything he does with a ferocity that sets him apart. He is even a better teammate and friend. I’m really excited to be coaching with Mo now at American Top Team. This is pretty deadly combination to have a guy at Mo’s level coaching on the best MMA team on the planet!”

Din Thomas (Former UFC fighter and ATT Coach)

“Mo is a unique talent and individual. He is so knowledgeable in so many subjects it’s ridiculous. He’s a true leader and role model not only as a fighter but as a human being. And in a sport like MMA that is so full of snakes in the grass, Mo is a rare breed of authenticity, kindness, and selflessness.”

Brad Barnes (BJJ Blackbelt and former King Mo cornerman)

“The next generation of athletes coming through ATT are going to have a huge advantage by having Mo as a coach. He has an insane fight IQ and has real knowledge and experience that you cannot put a price tag on. Every person that he has contact with, in every class from kids wrestling to adults and pros training MMA, becomes a better fighter/competitor. The best part is he takes a real interest in people and you can tell he genuinely loves seeing someone improve. He is by far one of the best minds in combat sports, and I am excited to watch him shape the next generation of world champions.”

Johnny Eblen (Undefeated Bellator MMA fighter and ATT member)

“King Mo is a legend. One of the best to ever do it. I enjoyed training and learning from him during his career. Excited for his future as a coach. He has so much knowledge. It’s a great addition to ATT’s coaching staff.”

Scott Askham (KSW middlweight champion)

“King Mo’s achievements speak for themselves but when you meet Mo he’s so humble. I have had the pleasure of sharing the mats with him and also been coached by him. He’s a great addition to the coaching team at ATT. I can’t wait to get back and pick his brain even more.”

Ryan Quinn (Former Bellator MMA and Head ATT Amateur Coach)

“One of my best friends. He’s helped me and had my back with so much in fighting and life. Mo’s one of the first people I call when I have good news and bad because I know he will give me his honest opinion and will always have my best interest at heart. He’s picked me up more times then I can count. I know I’m known for my toughness and grit but I wouldn’t have come to be the fighter I am without him in the picture. I’m not a rare story either. We have traveled all around the world together and wherever I go I always run into someone that Mo has touched and brought positivism to their life. He’s a rare individual in this industry and he’s left it a better one for that. Thank you Mo.”

The Stats and Facts of King Mo

-Lawal was a high school (1999) and collegiate (2002) wrestling national champion.

-“Real Pro Wrestling” existed for one season with King Mo winning the 184lb championship   representing the Oklahoma Slam.

-The first four bouts of Lawal’s career were all in Japan as well as his last bout

-Lawal competed in 13 states and three different countries

-Lawal is a big professional wrestling fan and appeared several times on TNA/Impact Wrestling. He was actually offered a contract through WWE and spent a week at the Ohio Valley Wrestling territory before deciding to make a career in MMA.

-13 of Lawal’s 21 victories were by way of TKO/KO

-After graduating college, Lawal continued wrestling in the senior division winning the Senior U.S. national championship three times; 2005, 2006, and 2008

 

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