After nearly 11 years and 31 fights, Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal has decided to call it a career.
The 38-year-old veteran officially retired from mixed martial arts on Monday after competing in promotions such as Bellator MMA, Strikeforce and RIZIN.
Lawal made his move into MMA after a successful career in collegiate wrestling where he was a Division I All-American and a Division II National Champion. Once he transitioned into fighting, Lawal was immediately considered a top prospect, and in just his seventh professional fight, he became Strikeforce light heavyweight champion with a win over Gegard Mousasi.
Unfortunately over the years, Lawal has undergone dozens of surgeries on his knees, hips and other areas of his body and that ultimately led to his decision to retire from the sport.
“It’s been on my mind for a while,” Lawal told MMAFighting about his decision to retire. “I just put it in the back of my head. It was the pain from the injuries that was messing me up and my lack of range of motion from my hip and my knee. I’ve been fighting most of my career with no legs, a messed up knee or a messed up hip and after I had that hip surgery where they put titanium metal in my hip, it kind of made me think — I’m going to need a knee replacement, I’m going to need an elbow replacement, I’m going to need a hip replacement.
“I was like I’m getting old, I’m 38, I’ve got kids. I can’t even run right now. I can’t even jog really. I’m that bad. It’s to the point where if I can’t jog or sprint or be explosive, then I’ve got to stop.”
As active as Lawal was during the course of his career, he still missed huge swaths of time due to injuries and the subsequent surgeries to repair the damage.
His most recent surgery was a hip resurfacing after Lawal was actually struggling to walk or even tie his shoes. Once that surgery was completed, he knew enough was enough.
“I had so many surgeries. Probably 30 or 40 surgeries,” Lawal said. “I remember the first time I had anesthesia when I had my ACL done, I went right to the movies and watched a movie after that. Now as I’ve gotten older when I get the anesthesia, I don’t know where I’m at. I look all jacked up. My last surgery, I was like this is my last surgery because my body don’t act the same.”
“My hip was messed up since before the [Gegard] Mousasi fight. It was getting worse and worse. At one point before the Quinton Jackson fight, I got a cortisone shot and I went back to get another the next week because it was that bad. When they injected me, they couldn’t even get into my hip. The doctor had to pull my hip and another one had to find the space to inject it.”
In addition to the numerous surgeries, Lawal admits he was in extreme pain for so much of his career that it just got harder and harder to train much less fight no matter how much he loved it.
Following his win over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in 2017, Lawal knew it was probably time to call it career but he always had so much fun with fighting that it was hard for him to walk away.
“It got to the point when I fought [Satoshi] Ishii, when I took a step it hurt. When I pushed off to throw a jab, it hurt. When I fought [Mirko] Cro Cop, it hurt,” Lawal said. “If you watch my fights, watch when I’m walking back to my corner, you can see me limp. I tried to hide it as much as I could but I pretty much had no legs when I fought.
“After the fight with Quinton, I went to WrestleMania a few days later and my hip was so bad, I couldn’t walk nowhere. I was with my boy [John] Hartnett and they had to come pick me up cause I couldn’t really walk.”
Through the haze of pain and injuries, Lawal still managed to accomplish a lot during his career with high-profile wins over numerous former champions and top contenders.
Still now that he’s wrapped a bow on his fighting career, the one memory that stands out above all the others is an incident that happened back in 2012 that nearly cost him his life.
“The Staph infection, when I beat that,” Lawal answered when asked about the memory from his career that stood out above all the others. “I had to bathe a certain way, I had to take certain meds. That experience, I’ll never forget. I remember the staph infection. I went through five different antibiotics. I had to take that every 12 hours. I had to connect the IV bag to my IV in my arm and just sit there and wait for it to drip. It’s scary.”
While his fighting career may be finished, Lawal won’t be going far because he has already made the move into coaching at the American Top Team academy in Florida.
There Lawal will work alongside a slew of top coaches, many of whom are also retired fighters, and that will keep him plenty busy going forward.
“I’m going to be around the sport,” Lawal stated. “I’m going to be in MMA, maybe dip into boxing and help some fighters out in boxing. Michael Hunter, I’m talking to him. He almost fought Anthony Joshua but Joshua picked Andrew Ruiz and we saw how that turned out for Anthony Joshua. Michael Hunter is right in the mix, I’ve known him since 2005 when he was an amateur. I’ve been helping him, I’ve been sparring with him. So when he comes down, I’m going to help him get ready.
“Coaching, giving back the information I’ve received from coaches in the past. It’s a great option.”