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Heavyweight or catchweight? Confusion reigns over ‘Rampage’ Jackson vs. ‘King Mo’ rematch

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

When Bellator first announced the rematch between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal for March 31 at Bellator 175, the bout was unveiled as a heavyweight attraction. But that message was seemingly unclear for one of the competitors.

On a conference call Wednesday to promote Bellator 175, Jackson and Lawal kicked things off by arguing about their usual topic of conversation. Lawal accused Jackson of “looking kinda old” and “kinda fat” ahead of the rematch, while Jackson brushed off the criticism and warned that he would be walking into the cage at a far heavier weight than his foe. But then something curious happened.

Lawal, after calling Jackson a “fat and sloppy” fighter who “fell off,” explained that Bellator offered him the fight at a 235-pound catchweight, but Lawal turned it down in favor of a heavyweight contest because he wasn’t worried about the extra weight.

“Guess what? You ain’t fighting me at heavyweight,” Jackson then said. “You fighting me at a catchweight.”

“No. Heavyweight, player. Ain’t no catchweight here,” Lawal responded. “It’s at heavyweight, dog. Two-sixty-five is the weight class. Heavyweight. I don’t do no catchweights.”

“Wait, wait, you’re telling me I can weigh 265?” Jackson said. “Is this what you’re telling me?”

“Yes. Yes, you can,” Lawal replied. “Ain’t no catchweight. I ain’t no ho. I don’t do no catchweight. Man, hell no.”

“I was told the fight was at catchweight,” Jackson said.

Jackson was then asked to clarify his comments later in the call. Was he actually under the impression that he was preparing for a 235-pound catchweight contest?

“I was told this was a catchweight,” Jackson told MMA Fighting. “I don’t know if my coach is lying to me or what. I was told that this was a catchweight, that I had to weigh 235.”

“Hell no,” Lawal quickly responded. “Even on the poster they say ‘heavyweight bout.’ There ain’t no catchweight. Your coach is lying to you, dog. Listen, it’s been heavyweight the whole time. Even when they announced the fight, they said at heavyweight. I don’t do no catchweight. I think, to me, catchweight is weak. ... Pick [a weight class] and we fight at it, and it’s heavyweight. I ain’t going to make up no weight class of 235, that’s weak.”

“Damn, my coach has been lying to me,” Jackson said. “My coach has been over here, he’s sitting right here, he’s been lying to me.”

The unusual exchange highlighted a call that saw Jackson and Lawal largely trade shots back-and-forth throughout, reigniting the rivalry that has stretched for years now between the two former friends. But whether the topic was their controversial first fight — which Jackson won via unanimous decision in May 2014 — or the circumstances of the rematch, the conversation often turned back to Lawal’s constant jabs at Jackson’s weight, of which he has thrown many in the lead-up the rematch.

“You guys, we can tell weight don’t matter to ‘King Mo.’ Look at his girlfriend,” Jackson said at one point. “We can tell he don’t give a f*ck about weight. Listen, ‘King Mo’ wants to talk about my weight and he thinks that hurts my feelings and stuff like that. It ain’t no secret, I’m older now. I’m an older fighter and I have a thyroid problem that is hard for me. I’m on medication, but what I did was, I addressed the problem. I went and saw a specialist and I talked to my coaches, and we decided to go to heavyweight and lift weights, get stronger, get bigger.

“So, ‘King Mo’ can fat shame and the stuff all he wants. I didn’t ask to fight ‘King Mo.’ I wanted to fight at heavyweight because I’m a bigger guy now. I left ‘King Mo’ in the past. I figured, yeah, I wanted to knock him out, I wanted the rematch, but I feel like fighting ‘King Mo’ again ain’t going to be nothing but a wrestling match, and why do I want to do that when I’m a striker? I like putting on exciting fights. I like being exciting.

“That’s why my career went towards the way it’s went, because I come to fight,” Jackson continued. “So, I don’t care what ‘King Mo’ says about my weight or what anybody else says. I’m doing Bellator a favor by giving them the rematch with ‘King Mo,’ and he had a problem dealing with me at 205. He’s going to have a problem dealing with me at 260, in shape.”

“What shape is that, circular?” Lawal shot back. “That’s about it, dog. Come on, man. You playing yourself. But that’s cool. As long as you happy, man, that’s all that matters to me. As long as you happy and you ready to go, I’m cool with that.”

Jackson said his decision to move up to heavyweight has been a beneficial one for both his health and mentality. He said that for the past six months he has been lifting weights for the first time in his career, noting that his coaches in the past always worried about him out-growing the 205-pound weight class he called home during his prime years.

And while Jackson admitted that Lawal wasn’t exactly the fight he wanted for his heavyweight debut — he much preferred a showdown against a striker like Matt Mitrione — he said that the trash talk in the rivalry was motivating enough to make the rematch against Lawal worthwhile.

“You guys have no idea how much ‘King Mo’ motivates me,” Jackson said. “The guy’s mouth is ridiculous, and that’s what I need. I wish more of my opponents would talk sh*t like ‘King Mo.’ Like, a lot of times when I go out there and fight, like, I’m not even motivated most times I fight. I don’t even care. I’m going to keep it real, I enjoy fighting. I love the fighting. But the training is the part that I have to get motivated for. I’m a natural fighter. I could fight any day, anybody, anywhere, I don’t care. I enjoy the fighting part. But the training is what I have to get motivated for, and ‘King Mo’ has motivated me more in this camp than I’ve been motivated in several years.

“It’s making me even love the training and stuff again, because I’m doing stuff that I haven’t done in years. So, it’s quite the contrary of what people think — I’m very motivated for this one.”