Muhammed Lawal was in a fight himself, a high-profile one at that. Yet, like many of the people in attendance at the AllState Arena, he couldn’t help but to rubberneck when a brawl broke out in the stands while he was in the cage.
It was the second round when “King Mo” said he started paying attention to the fight in the stands while he was in a fight himself against Quinton Jackson in the main event of Bellator 175 on Friday night in Rosemont, Ill.
“When we were against the cage, a fight broke out and I saw the crowd stand up, looking to the left,” Lawal told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “And I was trying to look at the fight. I don't know what was wrong with me.”
Seconds later, “Rampage” was able to get through and rock him with punches. Lawal lost the round, but came back to win the third and ultimately the unanimous decision over Jackson in a rematch of a bout he lost in 2014.
Lawal, 36, said getting distracted by the goings-on in the stands has affected him before. He said one time while he was fighting for Sengoku in Japan, he spotted Yoshihiro Akiyama sitting in the crowd. “King Mo” thinks it might come from being an amateur wrestling, having to pay attention to his coach, the referee, the out-of-bounds lines and other things.
“I’m always like that,” Lawal said. “There are times when i’ll be fighting and ill see somebody in the crowd and I’ll be like, ‘Oh, that’s so and so.’”
Lawal (21-6, 1 NC) was giving up 41 pounds to Jackson. It was the heaviest “Rampage” has even been in his long MMA career and he provided a different look in terms of style, too. Jackson usually comes forward and looks to land from the jump. On Friday night, he was more willing to move up against the cage, which proved to be a fairly effective strategy.
“I figured that he was gonna be that anyway,” Lawal said of Jackson being bigger. “I thought that maybe he thought if he was bigger he would try to muscle me, or something. I have no idea.
“I was expecting a different Quinton Jackson, to come forward. But to see him go backward, the lower stance threw me off.”
Lawal was unable to take Jackson down much, but he did control him against the cage for a good amount of the fight, mixing in strikes. “King Mo” clearly won the first and third rounds, with Jackson taking the second.
It wasn’t until afterward that the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion said he felt the effects of Jackson’s increased size.
“I felt it more after the fight,” Lawal said. “I’m sore. Usually I’ll be sore, but my muscles are kinda more sore from trying to wrestle him.”
“King Mo” ended up winning what was somewhat of a chess match against Jackson. He was firmly in control of the bout except for that lull in the second round when a brawl outside the cage caught his eye.
“I lost focus,” Lawal said. “That’s on me. I can’t blame the crowd. This was me, I lost focus. He got me. He hit me with a few good shots. I was never close to getting finished. I was stunned, I was overwhelmed, but I wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I’m done for.’”