It was one of 2013's most stunning images -- unheralded Emanuel Newton catching an unconscious Muhammed Lawal in his arms, Bellator's prized free agent acquisition felled by the first-round spinning back fist nobody saw coming.
For some, suffering such a shocking defeat would become the stuff of nightmares. But not for the man they call "King Mo."
"Man, I was right back into it the next Monday, I was back in the gym," Lawal reflected on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour.
"I was over it the day it happened. Because the thing is, I got caught. You know what I'm saying? I got caught, I'm going to bounce back. Hopefully I get a chance to fight Emanuel again. If not, then I'll just have the belt and he'll have to work his way to me. I'm just moving forward."
Lawal entered that fateful Bellator 90 bout an overwhelming favorite, buoyed by a thorough marketing push from Viacom across all platforms, including an hour-long television special, King Mo Unrivaled. Lawal was Bellator's latest and greatest toy, a former Strikeforce champion who was supposed to steamroll through season eight's light heavyweight tournament, steal away the Bellator title, and spearhead the promotion's new campaign on Spike TV.
However the promotion's rigid, fast-paced tourney model caters to the unexpected, and once again no one could've predicted this outcome.
Now is Newton slated to challenge Bellator champion Attila Vegh for the light heavyweight title, while Lawal is left to try it all over again as a entrant into Bellator's four-man summer mini-bracket. In Lawal's eyes, the loss to Newton was just a minor setback, one that his past experiences have allowed him to put into perspective.
"I was a favorite to win the Olympics," Lawal explained. "I beat the champion, Revaz Mindorashvili from Georgia. I smashed him when we wrestled. [At the U.S. trials,] I was up one point. With like 15 seconds left, I get taken down and turned. I was up, and if would've won that match, 15 seconds, I would've been an Olympic champion. But I got beat.
"The losses in college and amateur wrestling prepared me for all of this, because a loss is a loss. Some people be like, ‘You lost in MMA.' Well, I lost in amateur wrestling. And to me, my main, biggest dream was to be an Olympic champion. I fell short in the trials. That was the worst thing -- it still haunts me to this day. But as far as MMA, I just want to go out there and fight, have a good time, whatever, make money. What it comes down to is, that loss, I put it back, put it behind me. I cleaned a few things up and it won't happen again."
That last part is important, because if you listen to his critics -- many of whom are quite vocal -- Lawal came into his bout against Newton far too cocky, lowering his hands and showing complete disdain for his opponent's striking. Lawal disagrees with that assertion, but he admits that some "technical stuff" needed to be tweaked.
"The thing is, some times when I go out there, I get so turned up and wired up, that I'm loading up too much. There's no need for me to load up that much with these small gloves on. I worked on that," Lawal said.
"In boxing and even kickboxing, the guys that load up a lot are the guys that get beat up, and there's no point in loading up."
To that end, Lawal takes exception with the notion that his style led to his demise. Like he said, he believes he simply got caught, and if it didn't happen, his critics would be singing a far different tune right now.
"It's not like Emanuel Newton was out there touching me up, boxing me and outstriking me," explained Lawal. "Nothing was really going on. If anything, I was landing more on him. But the thing is, people say you keep your hands down trying to be like (Floyd) Mayweather. Well no, I'm not trying to be like Mayweather.
"I'm not trying to be like Floyd at all, because last time I checked, Floyd don't get kicks thrown at him. I'm just doing what's comfortable for me. If I'm out of range, my hands have got to be up. If I'm in range, my hands are up. If I'm looking to counter you, then yeah, I'll put one hand down to bait you so I can counter you. Some people just think that, oh, people's hands [need] to be up. Motherf--ker, I know what I'm -- my bad -- I know what I'm doing, so just mind your own, don't worry about what I'm doing. Mind your own."
In the meantime, Lawal has been staying busy between training sessions by sharpening his dual-sport skills in the Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) developmental league, in preparation for his reintroduction into Spike's TNA Wrestling fold.
Despite any past animosity, when the time comes, Lawal hopes to form a tag-team partnership with Bellator's other notable light heavyweight acquisition, a man with whom he is very familiar, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.
"I'm happy for him," Lawal said of Jackson. "I'm happy he's doing something he always wanted to do, he's getting paid. I wish more people could get a deal like that. I'd like to see Cyborg (Santos) or Marloes (Coenen), even Jessica Aguilar or somebody, Jessica Eye, some of them girls out there, even Ronda (Rousey), get a deal doing some stuff with pro wrestling because I think that'd be cool.
"It broadens your horizons, it makes things fun for you."
Regardless of his non-stop schedule, Lawal remains focused on the task ahead. He brushes off recent trash talk made by opponent Seth Petruzelli as background noise and admits to being unconcerned with anything Petruzelli brings into cage. In his own words, Lawal just has to be "solid" to get the victory.
Then it's onward to Bellator's Summer Series crown, and hopefully, a return to TNA in the fall.
"That's the plan," Lawal finished. "I've done about four or five matches for OVW. Everybody, OVW and TNA, seem pretty pleased with what they've seen, so I'm hoping in August."