SAN DIEGO - After Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier got into their infamous Las Vegas hotel lobby brawl in August, general consensus was that while such incidents probably shouldn't happen too often, in this specific case, the legitimate animosity would help build the fight as big as any the sport of mixed martial arts could make.
"King Mo" Lawal may as well have shot that notion The Rock's raised eyebrow in contempt.
The Bellator light heavyweight contender can't help but see what he views as a double standard in the public's reaction to intramural MMA altercations. If it happens in the UFC, says Lawal, they're looked upon with favor. If they happen outside, they're viewed as kitsch.
"You see Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier get into just a little tussle - no punches thrown, just wrestling a little bit - and everyone was like 'oh yeah, that's what the sport needs,'" said Lawal, who meets Tom DeBlass on Nov. 15 at Bellator 131. "And I'm like ‘wait a minute, so you're okay with guys grabbing each other and are falling down, but you don't care when guys are throwing hands and security coming in to break the s-- up?' It's happened in Bellator and Strikeforce too."
Indeed, fans and pundits have turned thumbs down on several altercations which occurred outside the UFC, including the notorious 2010 Strikeforce brawl in Nashville between Jason "Mayhem" Miller and the Skrap Pack, and, more recently, last month's confrontation between Stephan Bonnar and Tito Ortiz, who meet in the main event of the Nov. 15 card at the Valley View Casino Center.
"It happened in Strikeforce with Jason Miller, and he got jumped. That s-- was as real as it gets. Everyone's like ‘that's staged.' I'm like ‘you can't stage that. You don't stage s- with the Diaz brothers. Really? You think the Diaz brothers jumping someone is staged?' But if that happened in the UFC, everyone would have been like ... ‘yeah, I can't wait to see that fight! It's going to be amazing.' If everything with Tito and Bonnar happened in the UFC everyone would be ‘I can't wait for Bonnar to rip Tito's head off.'"
Lawal has his own experience with such episodes: He had an in-cage interview segment with Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at Connecticut's Mohegan Sun go awry and devolve into a pull-apart, one he maintains he wasn't cued in on beforehand.
"I didn't know it was going to happen," Lawal said. "Everyone says they set me up. They just brought me in to talk, I was on the mic, [announcer] Jimmy Smith had the mic, and then Rampage got hot and said ‘this is my time' and things just happened from there."
So why was the Jones-DC brawl embraced, while the rest were panned? Lawal has his theory.
"Every sport, the most popular people in the sport played the sport at one time. Look at [boxer Manny] Pacquiao. Could you imagine if Bob Arum was a bigger deal than Manny Pacquiao?" In MMA, the most popular person in the sport is Dana White. If Dana said ‘that was a great fight,' but the fight sucked, people on Twitter will still be all ‘yeah, yeah, Dana, that was a great fight.' They don't think for themselves. In MMA, people didn't grow up fighting. We grew up playing basketball, playing football, but they didn't grow up training to fight in a cage. So they'll be like "you know what, I need someone to listen to,' so they'll believe whoever is popular."