When Muhammed Lawal was cut by Strikeforce this week following a nine-month suspension, his future was thrown into disarray. For now, Lawal is still on the mend from recent knee surgery, but he may not have to wait long to find a new home.
At least two promotions have stated their interest in the former Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion. In separate interviews with MMA Fighting, both Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney and Super Fight League CEO Ken Pavia confirmed that they would likely reach out to Lawal in the near future to assess the possibility of pursuing him as a free agent for their respective organizations.
While Bellator has only signed a few fighters on the way out of Zuffa-owned promotions, Rebney said that Lawal would be the type they may target because of his upside potential and relative youth in the game (Lawal turned pro in 2008). Rebney hasn't so much as sent out a feeler yet, but said he's always heard great things about Lawal from mutual acquaintances to go along with his athletic talent. Because of those reasons, Rebney said he owed it to his company to explore the possibility.
"He's too talented of a fighter. He has too much athletic ability to ignore," he told MMA Fighting. "There were obviously pieces from his game that were missing that got exploited, but he's an incredible athlete, a talented fighter, a charismatic personality. Look at him and what he was able to accomplish in a series of fights. So yeah, I'd absolutely talk to him, and I anticipate I will be talking to him."
Meanwhile, the India-based Super Fight League recently hosted its its inaugural event in Mumbai, and a sophomore effort is just days away, with a full 2012 schedule already set. That means the promotion is on the lookout for talent, and according to Pavia, Lawal is on their radar.
"I have the utmost respect for King Mo," Pavia said. "He's a true student of the game and is exceedingly intelligent. Most importantly, he understands that we are entertainers and this is entertainment. He just gets it. It goes without saying that the SFL would love to have King Mo fight in our organization. We'll use best efforts to make that happen."
Its next event, set for April 7, will be headlined by a heavyweight bout pitting Neil Grove against Todd Duffee.
Interestingly, Bellator and Super Fight League have a working relationship, with Bellator allowing contracted fighters Grove and Alexander Shlemenko to compete at the aforementioned April event.
The 31-year-old Lawal is 8-1 with 1 no contest in his career. A former collegiate wrestling All-American and international amateur wrestler, he won his first seven pro bouts, becoming the Strikeforce light-heavyweight champ with a unanimous win over Gegard Mousasi in April 2010.
In his next fight, he lost the belt in a TKO loss to Rafael Cavalcante, but rebounded with a knockout of Roger Gracie. In his most recent fight, Lawal beat Lorenz Larkin by knockout, but the decision was eventually changed to a no contest after he tested positive for the steroid Drostanolone. He appealed the decision, saying it was due to an over-the-counter supplement called S-Mass Lean Gainer that was later removed from store shelves.
In addition to the suspension and change to the fight result, the Nevada state athletic commission also fined him $39,000. Hours after his penalties were set, he was cut by Strikeforce.
All of this came on the heels of a recurring staph infection that ravaged his body, causing him to lose about 30 pounds. For now, he remains on crutches and isn't likely to fight anytime soon. At least with the first revelation of interested promoters, Lawal might begin to look forward to something positive.