While Saturday night's inaugural Bellator pay-per-view hit every angle on the spectrum, from the entertaining to the wholly bizarre, the most curious storyline to emerge from Bellator 120 was the staggering rift between Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal and Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney.
From the early moments of the Spike TV broadcast, Lawal bluntly accused Rebney of "dick-riding" fellow light heavyweight headliner Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. That animosity carried over to Bellator's pay-per-view card, until finally coming to a head once judges proclaimed Jackson the controversial victor over Lawal, after which Lawal proceeded to verbally tear into Rebney, declaring among other things, "Cut me then if you don't like me. You know I won that fight, Bjorn."
Once cooler heads prevailed, Lawal and Rebney both downplayed the outburst at the night's post-fight press conference, with Rebney stating to MMAFighting.com that "some people got in Mo's head" and that any bitterness between the two sides had been hashed out.
However, both Lawal and his manager, Mike Kogan, appeared on Monday's episode of The MMA Hour, where they set the record straight as to the origin of their issues, as well as where the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion goes from here.
"It's just an accumulation of things," Kogan explained. "And it's not just me. It's people coming up to me. It's the reporters asking us, going ‘damn, did you guys do something wrong?' Because go find one interview for this entire fight promotion where you heard Bjorn equally promote Rampage and Mo.
"That is not the way you promote fights. That is the way you show favoritism. Not just in this, in all of this. It's just little things. It all accumulates. If I invite you to my house and I'm rolling out the red carpet for you, and then for no reason you come back and I give you a sandwich, and you say ‘okay, you know what, maybe he just didn't have a chance to cook well.' And then you come back the next time and I give you a candy bar, and you say ‘okay, well that's kind of weird.' And then the next time you come I don't give you s--t, I just offer you a glass of water, at some point you're going to go ‘okay, this is just screwed up.' That's just how it works, it's about relationships. Even if you don't like the guy or you don't believe in the guy, whatever your personal feelings are, you can't just do a 180 on that guy."
For his part, Lawal agreed with Kogan's characterization that the promotion for Bellator 120 was largely one-sided in Jackson's favor.
"To be real with you," said Lawal, "Viacom has been cool. Viacom are my people. Spike TV have been cool. But Bellator, they haven't been that cool. Look how they promoted me. Look at everything Bjorn said in the promotion.
"'Rampage is God. Rampage, man, he could blow and make things fall down. Rampage is a black superman. No one can beat Rampage. Rampage this, Rampage that.' He's like a cheerleader. And he just kind of downplayed me. Everything in the lead up to this fight, he never said one thing positive about me. Everything positive was about Rampage, and then he was like, ‘oh yeah, we have Mo right here.' So I felt disrespected a little bit."
Kogan acknowledged that immediately after the event's conclusion, he advised a still-heated Lawal to tone it done and act as professionally as possible during the post-fight press conference -- though things nearly became unraveled once more as reporters asked Rebney for his opinion on the fight.
"You know what, at first I was trying to be cool," Lawal said. "I was listening to my music. But then -- I'm going to be real with you -- when someone asked [Rebney] ‘do you agree with the judges' and he said ‘yes'... man, the n-word in me was about to come out and just put some hands on him.
"I had to think about different things because I was like, this dude is just out there bulls--ting. ... After the fight (before the official decision), I looked over at him, he looked like he was distraught.
"And then after the judges gave the fight to Quinton, I looked at him and saw him kind of like do a fist-pump type of thing, clap his hands a little bit. I was like... this dude. That when I was like, gimme the microphone."
The situation, which was already tenuous enough, compounded itself due to fact that Bellator 120 took place in Southaven, MS -- a city in close proximity to Jackson's hometown of Memphis, TN.
All three Mississippi judges awarded Jackson rounds one and three, giving him a 29-28 unanimous decision victory. However, round three was dictated primarily by Lawal's wrestling, and the attending media almost unanimously scored the final frame in favor of the former All-American, which led to speculation as to whether there was something extra going on behind the scenes.
"We were asked that question before, if anything fishy happened," Kogan said. "That's a bold accusation. To even speculate that you've got to have some mustard behind it, and I don't, other than don't take big fights to a commission that does, like, one and half fights a year, because they'll probably have incompetent judges that don't know what the hell they're looking at. But you tell me. I mean, this decision was just horrendous. The audience was leaving before the decision was announced because they knew Rampage lost. He knew he lost. His corner knew he lost. People on the internet knew he lost. The media knew he lost. We knew he lost. You just can't stomach something like this.
"To watch somebody go through what [Lawal] went through," Kogan continued, "He's not 100-percent yet himself, go through this camp the way he did, train as hard as he did, fight as hard as he did, and then just get screwed over because three hillbillies don't know f--king MMA from whatever the hell they do, it's just shameful.
"There were four people in the world that scored this fight for Rampage. Three judges and the founder and the CEO."
Both Lawal and Kogan stated repeatedly that they didn't bear any ill will towards Bellator specifically, but only with certain individuals and aspects of the event's promotion.
When asked how many fights remained on Lawal's Bellator contract, Kogan responded simply, "I don't know. A lot, probably. We're going to die in Bellator unless they cut us," while Lawal reiterated his willingness to stage a rematch against Jackson, but only under certain conditions.
"I'll give him the rematch," Lawal said. "Because really, I should be giving him the rematch because I won that fight. He came up and asked me for the rematch. ‘We've got to do this again.' He came up and asked me for it, so I'll give him it.
"But I just want to get paid and treated with respect. And if Bellator can't do it, maybe someone else will. It is what it is."