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King Mo Looks to Follow Ali's Path, Convert Critics Through Success

Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal already wears a crown, but now it's all about getting a matching belt to go with it.

There are those who doubt any future reign, he knows, but he's reaching for some pretty strong inspiration to quiet the critics.

"I've just got to keep winning," he told MMA Fighting in a recent interview. "Look at Muhammad Ali. People say Ali is the greatest now, but back when he first started saying it, people didn't like him. They couldn't stand him. They thought he was crazy. But he started winning, he kept on winning, and after a while people went, 'I guess he's right. I guess he is the greatest.'"

Like the aforementioned Ali, Lawal seems to revel in the spotlight. In fact, he's known for speaking his mind and staging elaborate entrances as much as he is for his fighting skills, though he readily admits that some of it is to draw attention. The Strikeforce No. 1 light-heavyweight contender, however, is surprisingly blase about having the eyes of millions on him on Saturday night.

You would think it's just the setting he wanted: a live network audience of millions checking out his words, his choreography, and his performance, but nope, he couldn't care less.

"I really don't care about that stuff, I just want to win," he said. "It's cool to be in the spotlight but only when it's my time to shine. I don't care about it until then. I've got to bring myself to light by winning. I say what I've got to say and do what I've got to do to get attention for the fight, but where the fight happens? I don't care what channel it's on. I don't care whether they show it on CBS or PAX, or some channel no one's ever heard of."

For the record, it'll be on CBS and in primetime when Lawal faces light-heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi for the title at Strikeforce: Nashville on Saturday. The champion is currently installed as a 3-to-1 favorite.

Some of that can be explained by the disparity in experience. Though Lawal was a collegiate wrestling All-American and considered one of the top American amateur wrestlers for several years, he has only six pro fights in a career that is less than two years old. The results though are undeniably impressive; he's 6-0 with five stoppage victories.

Mousasi, meanwhile, turned pro in 2003, and is 28-2-1 in his seven-year pro career. He is also in the midst of a 15-fight win streak.

Lawal says that while he never envisioned fighting for a major title so early in his career, he plans on treating Mousasi the same way as everyone else who's stood across the cage from him.

"I've never thought about the belt, I never think about the belt," he said. "I just think about beating who I fight. If people start to think you're the top dog or you beat the champ along the way, that's cool. I'm not worried about it, I'm just worried about winning the fight."

"I've competed so much in my life, I know how to win," he continued. "People wonder if I'm ready for Mousasi? Is Mousasi ready for me?"