Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal readily admits, he can’t pronounce the full name of his opponent ahead of his Bellator debut this week.
Przemyslaw Mysiala, a 30-year-old Polish journeyman, has tasted defeat in two of his last four bouts, and has yet to fight for a big-name promotion. But as Lawal, the formerStrikeforce light heavyweight champion and Bellator’s marquee free agent pickup, firmly insists, none of that will matter come fight night.
“He’s in the tournament, you know what I’m saying?” Lawal explained on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “When it comes down to it, whoever’s in the tournament, it doesn’t make a difference, because he has to win the tournament to get a chance to fight for the belt. Eventually, it doesn’t matter who it is. It could be him, it could be Mikhail Zayats, it could Jacob Noe, or it could be Emanuel Newton. We’re all going to get to fight each other, somehow, someway.”
Lawal’s upcoming debut at Bellator 86 is moment 12 months in the making. After testing positive for the anabolic steroid Drostanolone last March and posting insulting comments towards NSAC Commissioner Pat Lundvall on Twitter, Lawal unexpectedly received his walking papers from Strikeforce, the promotion that made him a star. However, when one door closes, another always opens, and Bellator MMA approached Lawal with an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Now Lawal is set to become one of the cornerstones of Bellator’s organization, a dual-sport athlete competing not only in season eight’s light heavyweight tournament, but also Spike TV’s hit show, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA).
“Pro wrestling was more nerve-wracking for me,” Lawal admitted. “Because you don’t know what to expect. MMA, I train hard and I know what to expect, because I can go out there and do what I do. In pro wrestling you kind of know what to expect, but you don’t, because the reactions from the crowd, if they buy into your character, your demeanor. It’s a little bit different. In MMA you just got to knock somebody out or submit them, or be exciting, and you get props from the crowd.”
Lawal made his TNA debut under the stage name “King Mo” back in early October, sporting MMA gloves, a shimmering cloak and his trademark crown, while serving as a special “guest enforcer” at the ‘Bound for Glory’ pay-per-view.
Lawal, who grew up a fan of professional wrestling, hopes to continue pursuing his dual career later this summer, following the conclusion of Bellator’s tournament. Though the process has been far more challenging than Lawal anticipated.
“I remember watching Tough Enough on MTV,” recalled Lawal. “And I was like, ‘Look at these guys. These guys are weak. How is that going to hurt you? Man, that ain’t nothing. I can handle that.’ And then, my first two weeks at (developmental territory) OVW, I was like, ‘Man, what the hell am I doing here.’ My back is hurting. My neck is hurting. My heels are hurting, and the right side of my body, from the ropes, was all raw.
“I had doubts, like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ I really had doubts.”
“You have to take the bumps proper,” he continued. “You take them wrong, you’re going to mess yourself up. I was trying to just like power through and act like it didn’t hurt, and then at nighttime I had headaches. It made me rethink, should I really be doing this? Then after that first week, it clicked.”