Muhammed Lawal lets out a groan when he's asked about the Bellator: Dynamite tournament back in September.
"King Mo" was supposed to fight Phil Davis in the final, but he injured his ribs in a win over Linton Vassell in the semifinals. Davis ended up knocking out reserve Francis Carmont. Three months later, Lawal is still thinking about what would have happened if he was the one standing across the cage.
"I thought I matched up great against Phil," Lawal told MMA Fighting. "I was like, 'Yeah, I can't wait.' I was excited. I was like, 'He can wrestle, so can I. I can stand, can he? I can stand, can he?' I was like, 'Let's bang.'
"I know I can let my hands go more. I ain't gotta worry about his power. That's the first knockout that guy probably got in his career."
Davis earned a light heavyweight title shot against Liam McGeary sometime in the first half of 2016. Lawal is certainly next in line, but he isn't going to be waiting around. "King Mo" will compete in the Rizin heavyweight grand prix in Japan, starting on Dec. 29. If Lawal wins his first-round fight with BAMMA's Brett McDermott, he'll move onto the semifinals and maybe the finals on Dec. 31.
Fighting in Japan means a lot to "King Mo." The first four fights of his pro MMA career were for Sengoku. Lawal (16-4, 1 NC) also wants to stay busy. He's planning on returning to Bellator action as early as February and in 2016 he has designs on fighting at heavyweight, light heavyweight and middleweight.
"I'm a moneyweight," Lawal said. "I'm just gonna try to get in big fights and fight whoever is available. That's the thing. I want to get paid. I want to fight good fights and just enjoy what I'm doing."
Lawal, the 34-year-old a former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, has won four in a row for Bellator and has not lost since a controversial decision against Quinton Jackson in May 2014. He's a building block for Bellator, much like he was for Bellator president Scott Coker's Strikeforce promotion. "King Mo" fought five times for Strikeforce and has never been in the UFC. He plans on making Bellator his home for a long a time, too.
"I'm gonna finish my career out with Bellator," Lawal said. "I'm happy where I'm at. I get treated well. I don't gotta worry about no one bad mouthing me or talking bad about me. I'm happy there."
Lawal is happiest when he's fighting a good amount and pulling in those purses. He could fight three more times before New Year's Day hits and that's what he's hoping for. But even though the Rizin tournament is devoid of big names, "King Mo" is going into it with caution. He knows his fair share about Japanese MMA.
"That's the weird thing," Lawal said. "Everybody is like, 'You better win.' Yeah, that's the plan, but you just can't assume you're gonna win because you don't know who these guys are you're fighting. Nobody had any idea who Fedor was. Nobody knew who [Igor] Vovchanchyan was. Nobody knew who [Antonio] Nogueira was. Nobody knew who Heath Herring was. People come out of nowhere and just happen to win. So I can't take any of these cats lightly."