Muhammad "King Mo" Lawal won a Division II national championship in wrestling in 2002. After winning the title, he transferred to Oklahoma State where he placed third at the 2003 NCAA Championships. He also won the U.S. Nationals and was the No. 1 seed at the U.S. World Team Trials in 2006 before losing in the semifinals.
In other words, the guy can flat out wrestle.
That said, MMA is a different sport. Sure, wrestlers tend to do well in MMA, but they don't often take on guys with 65 professional fights under their belt in their MMA debut. Of course, that's why MMAFighting.com's Robert Rousseau decided to interview Mo Lawal in the first place. He's not your everyday fighter, and anyone that saw his victorious TKO debut victory over Travis Wiuff knows that.
So as Lawal readies to enter the ring against Fabio Silva at Sengoku VI on Nov. 1, we were lucky enough to get the chance to speak with him about his background, his confidence, Fabio Silva, and more.
MMAFighting.com: I know it was a while ago, but congratulations on your win over Travis Wiuff.
Mo Lawal: Oh, thanks man.
MMAFighting.com: You know, most guys don't end up fighting a guy with over sixty professional MMA fights in their debut. Wiuff is a guy that's defeated Ricco Rodriguez, Jason Guida, and Fujita in the past, so tell me how that fight ended up happening.
Mo Lawal: I took it on short notice. (I) threw my name in there to fight maybe like Roger Gracie, but Roger Gracie didn't know who I was. And I guess he wanted to make a name for himself, so he picked Travis. He ended up getting injured, so they called me up saying they needed somebody to take his place. It was more than welcome. Really, I can fight at 184 pounds; I can fight at 205; I'm confident anywhere as long as I can make weight. So I was like, 'alright, let's take it.' I thought it would be a good fight for me because my whole life, you know what I'm saying, I've never done anything the right way. It's always been backwards. Same with wrestling. I started wrestling real late and I won state my second year of wrestling.
MMAFighting.com: Were you concerned at all about his MMA experience advantage coming in or no?
Mo Lawal: No. Here's the thing, right. I take it like this, after every fight you're 0-0 again. It's like your debut, I think. It's a lot of experience, but each fight is a new fight. You can be 100-0 and go to a fight and lose. So you're pretty much 0-0 coming into each fight.
MMAFighting.com: It's a good attitude to come in with for sure. You seemed very calm in that fight. Were you that calm?
Mo Lawal: Yeah, I'm always that calm. I was more concerned about my entrance into the ring than the fight. I've trained so much for the fight?well, not so much?I trained maybe for a good solid two months. . . But not for Travis, just training. I train hard so I was just excited about that fight. I just know I'm always prepared and I'm always ready.
MMAFighting.com: You also looked very good on your feet. I know that you have a background in wrestling, but do you have a background in stand up?
Mo Lawal: Here's the thing: when I was in high school I used to go to a boxing gym a little bit and just play around. But I never had a steady boxing trainer ever. I used to show up, put the gloves on, and just play around. I learned the jab, the cross, the hook. I learned one, two, three. . . Then I just kept on wrestling. . . and people call(ed) me up and play(ed) around with boxing gloves. (Now) I've probably had about two and a half months of solid training with Melchor Manor and about a month and a half with Justin Fortune.
MMAFighting.com: So you do have some background in striking. It looked like you did. How is it training with Team Quest, and who are some of the guy that you end up training with most?
Mo Lawal: I train with Team Quest, but right now I am currently not with Team Quest. I trained with Josh Barnett, Hector Lombard, Benji Radach. . . Babalu, Chael Sonnen, Matt Lindland, Ryan Schultz, the list goes on?Dean Lister, Jayson "Mayhem" Miller, Ryo Chonan.
MMAFighting.com: You've been training with a lot of the best guys going.
Mo Lawal: Yeah, because it goes back to. . . When I first started wrestling, I pretty much learned the one- two (boxing) and played around with people. When I got to a high level of people it worked. I started to figure out how to do everything right.
MMAFighting.com: We all know that you're a national championship caliber wrestler and that wrestlers do well making the transition to MMA. But what has been the biggest challenge for you in making the transition?
Mo Lawal: I don't know because it's my dream job. My dream was to be a fighter, a world champion. The challenge is probably stand up, I guess. I have no idea because I love everything. There's no challenge for me. I love everything that comes with MMA, injuries and all. I don't care. I love it all.
MMAFighting.com: How has your jiu jitsu been coming along?
Mo Lawal: See the thing is I don't work off my back really. I just want to get off my back. I train with Dean Lister, Babalu, Josh Barnett, Erik Paulson. I'm not a jiu jitsu specialist, but I know my thing; I'm pretty aware. I've got great jiu jitsu awareness.
MMAFighting.com: What's next for you? Are you signed long term to WVR? Are you able to fight for other organizations? What's the deal now?
Mo Lawal: Well, I'm starting with Sengoku but I can fight anywhere else but Asia. I'm fighting Fabio Silva Nov. 1. That's going to be a good fight. He's a Chute Box guy, 11-4 record, which is crazy because I'm only 1-0 (laughing). It's a challenge. To me, it's 0-0.
MMAFighting.com: How's training been going for that fight?
Mo Lawal: It's going great. I'm just ready to fight. I love fighting.
MMAFighting.com: You said you've trained with Josh Barnett. What's that like?
Mo Lawal: Oh man, me and Josh Barnett. . . When we're training, we fight! I'm not going to lie, I'll take him down, I'll try things (but) he gets the best of me. It's so fun. He beats the breaks off of me, but it's fun.
I hold my own. I love the challenge. He's a great fighter. I think he's athletic. I think he can honestly beat Fedor. He's a bad man. Fedor is a great fighter himself, but Josh Barnett can move. . . he's athletic, good wrestling. He'll take me down once in a while and I'm a takedown specialist, you know what I'm saying?
MMAFighting.com: Yeah. What do you think of your upcoming opponent?
Mo Lawal: Aggressive, Brazilian, a fighter from Chute Box. He's kind of like Wanderlei, tries to be like Wanderlei, but he's not Wanderlei. I'm looking forward to having a good fight with him and looking good and smelling good and feeling good after the fight.
MMAFighting.com: (Laughing) Any predictions for that fight?
Mo Lawal: No, just predict me looking good. . . I'm just going to go out there and fight. I'm gonna stay looking good, though.
MMAFighting.com: Anything you'd like to say to the fans.
Mo Lawal: I appreciate your support. . . Let's go out there and support all contact sports. If you get a chance to watch a Taekwondo tournament, go watch it. A wrestling tournament? Yeah (that too). Just watch everything so you can learn more about everything about the combat sports.
MMAFighting.com: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me. Good luck in your fight.
Mo Lawal: No problem, bro.