According to Dr. Rhadi Ferguson, a long-time mentor to Muhammed Lawal, the man they call “King Mo” is a world-class athlete who could still wrestle at a very high level if push came to shove.
But Dr. Ferguson is also quick to point out that athleticism alone isn’t responsible for Lawal’s success in sport:
“Mo is very forward-thinking, eclectic and very intelligent,” explained Dr. Ferguson, who first met Lawal while the two were training at the Olympic Training Centre about 10 years ago and now speaks with him over the telephone about once a week.
“Mo approaches MMA the same way we pursued our sports—judo and wrestling—when we were training for the Olympics ... He approaches his fights as a surgeon, dissecting a person and a situation with the understanding of the directives, the objectives, the game plan.
“He’s very analytical.”
As it turns out, Lawal has always taken an analytical approach to his athletic endeavours. But while training at the Olympic Training Centre, where he was trying to crack the United States’ men's wrestling squad, he was encouraged to take it a step or two further.
“I remember when I first met (Dr. Ferguson) at the Olympic Training Centre, he blew my mind with his processes and his preparation,” recounted Lawal, who studied kinesiology and education at Oklahoma State University and the University of Central Oklahoma.
“I would go into detail like that, but he would take it to a T. He was more detailed than me, so I set myself up to be more detailed ... He set a big example for me; he’s an Olympian, but he’s got true Olympic-level scouting, true Olympic-level preparation, true Olympic-level training.”
For Lawal—and Dr. Ferguson—in-depth game planning and coherent strategy are integral to success in athletics. Despite this, Lawal, a professional mixed martial artist since 2008, insisted he has a fairly simple and straightforward approach to his preparations.
“First, I look at a person’s strengths—I acknowledge them—then I look at a person’s weaknesses,” noted Lawal, who has claimed notable victories over Roger Gracie, Mark Kerr and Gegard Mousasi. “I try to find more weaknesses than their strengths. I try to keep the fight to their weaknesses and to my strengths.”
Lawal noted that it usually takes him about an hour or two of studying film to develop a preliminary game plan. Once Lawal establishes an outline, he generally consults some of his mentors—guys like Dr. Ferguson, Jonathan Chaimberg, Bob Cook, Kevin Jackson, Omar Lima, Jeff Mayweather, Javier Mendez and Fareed Samad—and adjusts his preparations accordingly. As Lawal approaches fight-night, his game plan becomes more and more detailed.
“The sketching, the drawing is right there, I just have to put the details in over the camp,” Lawal said. “I go in there and fill in the minor details here and there.”
Although a fair bit of work goes into Lawal’s fight preparations, he insisted that it is a fairly straightforward approach—“It’s simple when you know what you’re doing,” he noted. Simple or not, it’s hard to argue with the results that Lawal has so far yielded in athletics—both in wrestling and mixed martial arts.
Lawal isn’t certain how much longer he’ll be preparing game plans for himself. He is to begin competing under the Total Nonstop Action Wrestling banner by year’s end and then make his Bellator FC debut in January; but if all goes according to plan, he won’t be walking away from the gym—or the film room—anytime soon.
“I’m not satisfied with what I’ve accomplished so far,” Lawal noted. “But I’ve got lots of time—lots of time—to take care of that.”
Dr. Rhadi Ferguson is a recognized high-performance enhancement specialist centered in education, business and sport. He may be contacted via email (info@rhadi@com), Twitter (twitter.com/JudoDoc) or online at www.TheTruthAboutMMA.com.
Ed Kapp is a Regina, Saskatchewan-based freelance journalist. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations were obtained firsthand.