Former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammed Lawal is looking to add another piece of hardware to his trophy case when he rematches Emanuel Newton for the interim Bellator 205-pound strap at Bellator 106 this Saturday.
When asked how he envisions this fight going, "King Mo" was succinct in his answer.
"It’s a different fight, and it will be a different outcome," Lawal told Bleacher Report over the phone. "I got a little reckless the first time, and that won't happen again."
Newton pulled off a massive upset at Bellator 90 in February, knocking out Lawal with a spinning backfist mid-way through the first round.
Since then, Newton won a hard fought battle against Mikhail Zayats in March, while Lawal earned back-to-back TKO's over Seth Petruzelli and Jacob Noe in June and July, respectively.
Therefore, a second encounter between the two competitors was inevitable.
Waiting in the wings for the winner is Bellator light heavyweight champion Attila Vegh, who boasts a nine-fight win streak and is just as dangerous standing (10 knockouts) as he is on the ground (11 submissions).
Nevertheless, Lawal isn't sweating a potential title unification bout with Vegh.
"I think I match up well and (I'd) beat him," he said. "He's good at changing foot stances and (throwing) volume punches ... he’s well-rounded. But I can mix it up and keep him guessing," indicating he could win the fight with either his wrestling or his striking.
The former Division I All-American collegiate wrestler was also willing to talk about several matters not related to Bellator 106, including his time spent learning the trade of professional wrestling at Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW), a developmental league that is owned by Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling.
"I like it, it’s just hard. (There is) so much to remember, so much to learn. People think pro wrestling is easy…you got guys that have been wrestling for years and are still in pro wrestling school after seven or eight years of training," Lawal explained.
"I don't want to step in the ring until I've mastered each technical piece I’m missing. If I rush, I can look real bad ... I want to be ready," he said, refusing to put a timeline on his TNA debut.
As he has stated in the past, the American Kickboxing Academy fighter reiterated that he is "definitely interested in working with (Quinton) 'Rampage' (Jackson)" inside the pro wrestling ring.
Rampage, a former PRIDE star and UFC champion, made his debut with TNA on June 6, joining the The New Main Event Mafia faction and feuding with fellow UFC castoff Tito Ortiz.
Ortiz vs. Rampage was set to headline Bellator 106 this weekend on pay-per-view, but as fight fans know all too well now, things don't always work out as planned, per MMA Fighting.
After Lawal was released from his Strikeforce contract last March due to a spat with the Nevada State Athletic Commission, fans and analysts alike assumed he would eventually end up inside the Bellator cage.
When asked by Bleacher Report if he had any interest in finishing his career inside the Octagon, the heavy-handed wrestler gave a thought-provoking response.
"I don’t care. I’m happy with Bellator. I could’ve went to the UFC if I felt like waiting … but I didn’t feel like waiting. I choose Bellator," Lawal said.
"Every organization has great fighters. You can’t make it about the organization, you have to make it about the fighters. Look at boxing: Adrien Broner, Omar Figueroa, Juan Manuel Marquez. ... If you aren't repping Golden Boy (Promotions), that immediately means you’re a bad fighter?"
"No, who cares. If you’re a fan of the fighter, you’re a fan of the fighter. It shouldn't matter which promotion they're competing in."
Finally, Lawal was asked how he stacked up against the best light heavyweights in the sport, such as UFC champ Jon Jones and top contenders Alexander Gustafsson, Phil Davis and Daniel Cormier.
While the five-year veteran of the cage did not address anyone directly, he made it clear that he is both confident in his skills and not a big fan of current MMA rankings.
"I feel like I can beat anybody. The rankings are kind of a joke. Rankings don’t mean anything at all," Lawal stated.
"There could be a stud from Guam who could whoop anyone’s ass, but we just don’t know about him now. There are no true comprehensive rankings in MMA. In other sports like football or basketball, we can see athletes climb the ranks through High school, college and then professional leagues."
"Then there's a Pro Bowl, All-Star Game, where the best of the best can really show off their talent. In MMA, I could go to Kentucky, find a dude working on farm, give him a weight program, a good diet, a training regime ... and he could turn pro (in MMA)."
Lawal also cited Olympic-level, pro style boxing, prior to headgear being worn in the 1984 Los Angeles games, as the perfect way to determine "the cream of the crop" among fighters.
Lawal vs. Newton II is the third main card bout at Bellator 106, marking one of three championship bouts on the Spike TV event.
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