There has been plenty of talk over the years about whether "King Mo" Lawal and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson are friends, enemies, or somewhere in between.
That talk only further heated up after the two went at following Jackson's first-round knockout win over Christian M'Pumbu on Feb. 28 in Connecticut. Was the altercation legit, staged, or a little bit of both?
But as the two prepare for their Bellator pay-per-view co-main event on May 17th in the suburbs of Memphis, Lawal wants to make one thing absolutely clear: The two aren't down.
"We're not boys," Lawal said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "I never talk to Rampage on the phone, maybe once, three or four years ago. I don't know s--- about Rampage, I knew he's from Memphis. Other than that, I can't say too much about him. I don't know that dude, I don't know. We ain't boys, we've never been boys."
And while Lawal has respect for what Jackson, who unified the UFC and PRIDE light heavyweight titles, has achieved in the sport, he doesn't seem to have particularly high regard for the fighter "Rampage" has become in 2014.
"I don't I think he's the same fighter he was all the time," said Lawal. "I'm not worried about him, he's got knockouts in the first round. So what. That don't mean nothing to me, that's in the past. He knocked out Christian M'Pumbu. Knocking out Christian M'Pumbu, you know what I'm saying, he got caught. But I ain't getting caught."
All the trash talk and whatnot aside, this is an important fight in Lawal's career. He was brought into Bellator amid much fanfare, expected to be a crossover MMA and pro wrestling star on Spike TV's various platform.
But it simply hasn't worked out, as a pair of losses to Emanuel Newton got in the way.
Lawal blazed his way to a 7-0 career start, culminating in a 2010 win over Gegard Mousasi to win the Strikeforce light heavyweight title.
Since then, though, things have been hit-or-miss, with a 5-3 record, plus a no-contest, with a victory overturned due to a steroid suspension. A big factor along the way was a terrible staph infection, which required a long hospitalization.
Lawal is aware there have been whisper that he hasn't been the same fighter since. But while he admits its still a mental struggle, he says he's physically over his bout with staph.
"The effects are pretty much almost gone now," said Lawal. "I'm talking now its mental. My cardio is good, my strength is good. I still worry about staph infection. If I get scratched, I get paranoid. If I get scratched. ... Any type of scratch I get, I got a scratch in my ear, I gotta take care of it. As far as physical, I'm good, I'm good to go. I've been training in Florida with American Top Team I've been putting that work in and I'm feeling great. I've been working hard, straight up."
Indeed, Lawal seems to have finally settled down at his new MMA home. This is his second fight with American Top Team, after bouncing from camp to camp over the years. Lawal says he already feels the difference.
"I'll take the fight everywhere," Lawal said. "To the ground, standing, against the cage. I'm confident, this camp has probably the best camp I've had ever, straight up. As far as all-around everything, it's the best camp ever. The coaches, there's more cohesiveness, the timing is down, the schedule, everything. Other places I've been to, the coaches haven't been on the same page."
Lawal said he doesn't mind the fight being on pay-per-view, where there a likely to be fewer viewers than his biggest fights on Spike TV have drawn.
"That's a call Bellator made," Lawal said. "I'm cool with Spike TV, I'm cool with anybody. They can put it on AXS, I don't care. Bjorn that's what he wants to do, and that's cool, so I'm backing them up by fighting on PPV."
Regardless of the television platform, "King" Mo says the result will be the same.
"I know he's getting his ass whupped, straight up," Lawal said. "He's getting his ass whupped."