Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal enjoyed his coming out party last night by defeating Gegard Mousasi and taking his Strikeforce light-heavyweight title.
Lawal is only seven fights into his pro career, but he has already become one of the top 205-pound fighters in the world. The scary thought for his competitors is the fact that he's only going to get better.
While his level of competition may have been lacking prior to last night, there is no doubting the new champion after a thorough victory against the much-hyped Mousasi.
Throughout the weeks leading up to the championship bout, Lawal talked a lot of smack, but it was all just part of the show in his mind.
"Yeah, I talked a lot prior to fight," Lawal said when asked about his pre-fight comments. "I didn't say anything disrespectful towards Gegard. It was just about having fun, entertaining myself and the fans, and having a good time."
Lawal may have had a good time leading up to the fight, but he quickly learned that he had a huge challenge ahead of him when Mousasi managed to hit his left eye enough to make it swell shut early on. He persevered through it, but he said it wasn't as big of a factor as many may have thought.
"Yeah, he caught me with a lot of short shots early that made the eye close up," he responded when asked about the eye. "It really wasn't a big deal though. I've had wrestling matches where both eyes were poked, and I fought blind. Instincts take over when something like that happens, and you just do what you have to do to survive."
In fact, after taking some punishment from Mousasi, Lawal knew almost immediately that he had a good chance of pulling out the fight.
"He caught me early, but it really didn't hurt me," he said in response to Mousasi's power. "My little brother has hit me harder than that. So I knew once I felt his power and it didn't bother me that I was going to be just fine."
While fans and critics may have been surprised by the outcome of the fight, don't count Lawal as one of them. He banked on becoming the new champion ahead of time.
"I had a championship ring made prior to the fight," Lawal said as he showed off the ring on his hand. "It was a gift to myself knowing all the while that I was going to win this fight and become the new champion."
King Mo possesses the type of game that could help him dominate the sport for years to come. He is an excellent wrestler and has knockout power in his hands. He also knows how to sell himself, a fact that could make him the face of Strikeforce in the months and years to come.
He has the "it" factor that draws people to him. While some of his antics seem more suited for the WWE rather than MMA, Lawal is simply doing what comes natural to him.
Having a flower girl, an umbrella girl, and dancers to grind up against him pre-fight is just all part of the show in the mind of the new champion.
"Man, it's all just about having fun," Lawal said when asked about some of his antics during the week. "I'm all business inside the cage, but yeah, I'm going to have fun with all this too."
What's next for the new champion? He could head over to Japan in May for the DREAM light-heavyweight Grand Prix. It would be the next logical option in Lawal's growth as a complete fighter. The idea was already being thrown out by Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker after the fight.
"We have a good relationship with DREAM," Coker said when asked about sending his new champion to Japan. "If Mo is healthy, I think it'd be a great idea for him to head to Japan, and try to win the tournament. But we will let him rest up for a bit and see how he feels in a couple weeks."
Before last night, everyone thought that Gegard Mousasi was the best light-heavyweight in Strikeforce and one of the best in the world. Lawal changed that thinking in 25 minutes, and now he sits atop an ever deepening light-heavyweight division.
Like him or not, King Mo Lawal is the real deal and could potentially become one of the biggest draws in the sport. A new era has begun in Strikeforce, and don't expect the new champion to be dethroned anytime soon. All hail the new king, all hail King Mo.
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