I recently spoke to former Strikeforce Champion and TNA talent King Mo Lawal ahead of his big Bellator 154 main event against Phil Davis this weekend for an exclusive interview. Mo talks his time in TNA, the Bellator regime change and much more. You can read the full interview below, and also check out the audio in the video player above, or at the bottom of the page.
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You're facing Phil Davis at Bellator 154, but you're coming off of that tournament run from Rizin around the new year. Usually you don't take even four months off, did you need that after Rizin?
"Well I fought three times in two days. I could have fought again after that. MMA is tough, we get time in between, I could have fought in like a month and a half. In pro wrestling, they do shows weekly, sometimes three times a week, some guys four a month, that's tough. Three fights in two days – some of my fights ended quick. I didn't take damage. Pro Wrestling's a little different, you're taking bumps, hitting those ropes, taking damage."
What was going through your head when you had to pull out of that Bellator tourney?
"Damn, I can't believe this s--t is happening! I'm f--king hurt!' I had to pull out and that's what it was."
What do you think Phil Davis' game plan will be going into the fight? He's a wrestler, but your background in wrestling is excellent.
"He can try, but I can wrestle too. People think I'm a boxer/street fighter, I'm a wrestler, that's my main background. I'm down with whatever he wants to do. If he wants to wrestle, fight, grapple, we'll do it. I'm trained for everything."
You've spoken openly about your desire to fight at Heavyweight, is the Heavyweight Championship out of the question?
"Whatever Bellator wants to do, I'll do. I'm moneyweight, I chase that money."
Do you think more fighters should jump back and forth between weight classes?
"If they can do it, they should. Fighters have been doing that. Royce Gracie, Din Thomas, BJ Penn, Lyoto Machida, Anderson Silva, Matt Lindland. I call it moneyweight because that's what I feel it is. There was moneyweight long before me. People decades ago doing it. Sakuraba, Wanderlei Silva – those are the original moneyweight guys. They fought where they'd get paid at."
You also have a history in pro wrestling. Is that something you'd want to do again in the future?
"We do it sometimes at American Top Team. The American Top Team Wrestling Federation. I'm one of the contenders. Wes Brisco's been involved, Stevie Richards have been involved. Me and Stevie Richards actually had a match. Action Ortiz from Ring of Honor, he's a part of it. MVP. We're doing some things, we have a little wrestling federation and do shows for the kids. (American Top Team owner) Dan Lambert is a big wrestling fan. We get together and watch a lot of shows as well."
Do you still follow WWE, TNA, and shows like that?
"Yeah, I follow it the best I camp. It's hard through camp."
What are your thoughts on the TNA situation of late, have you paid attention to that?
"Yeah, I've been paying attention, man. I was kind of worried when Kazarian and Daniels left. Then Samoa Joe left. Then AJ Styles, Eric Young, Austin Aries, Bobby Roode- Bobby Roode can wrestle his ass off. The guys that could really wrestle are leaving. I hope they can bounce back. That's not good, especially when AJ Styles left. They lost a lot of great wrestlers, and I hope they can turn the corner and move forward on a positive note."
When you were in TNA did they have any long term plans for you?
"Everything got messed up quick because of my fight schedule. I was in OVW, had a couple of matches there. I was working with Al Snow, Nick Dinsmore and Nick Miller, who is known as Trailer Park Trash. I was learning a lot from Frank Miller. TNA didn't really have a chance to use me because of my fight schedule. I fought like 5-6 times that one year."
Do you ever see yourself being able to balance MMA and pro wrestling like that on a high level again? We've seen Bobby Lashley do it.
"I don't think so. Bobby Lashley has, but I don't know if it's at a high level. At a high level you're fighting 4-5 times each years. He's fighting about two. Pro wrestling's first for him, MMA is second. When you try to balance is, something's gotta give, it's hard to do both. For him, pro wrestling is what pays most of the bills."
Is the freedom that Bellator gives you important in that regard? You have that option. If you were in the UFC, you wouldn't.
"I love the freedom. They give me the chance to expand my brand. I love that. That's something I like about Scott Coker and Kevin Kay. They allow that."
How would you compare the Scott Coker regime to the Bjorn Rebney era?
"(laughs) Night and day. You know why? A few years ago, you'd have never interviewed me."
Were you overjoyed when you heard the news that Coker was taking over?
"Yeah, he brings legitimacy to Bellator. As soon as they signed and brought Coker in the media was on the up and up. It got more buzz. Before it was like 'ah, Bellator, egh.' As soon as it came out that Bellator might sign Scott Coker it was like 'damn, I like that, what's going on with that?' I always said I'd love for it to happen and when it happened, Bellator went up."
Bellator has an interesting business model where they highlight high level fighters like yourself, and also attract viewers by using older names. Do you like that model?
"I think it's good, man. MMA is entertainment. If I'm 40-0, people won't want to watch me fight if I'm decisioning guys. If I'm 35-10 with 30 knockouts, people will want to watch me fight because I knocked out 30 people."
You've been incredibly active since coming back from the life-threatening injury. What triggered that?
"I always wanted to fight that much. When I first started fighting, I was fighting every six weeks. Then I had the knee injury and the staph infection, it messed things up. If I could do the Brock Lesnar schedule, I'd be cool with that. Get paid a lot of money for a few fights a year. If I'm training though, why not do my job? I like to fight as much as I can and have a good time. I still want to go out there and bang. If I can fight six times a year, I will."
Bellator recently regained the contract of Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. You all have had a long rivalry. Is that something you'd like to do again? The first fight ended controversially.
"No interest in that. You could see his reaction when they read the result. I was looking happy, he was down, his corner was down. He has a tough fight with Ishii, and I hope he wins that because I wanna see him beat Tito. Tito is one guy I can't stand, he's a joke to me. He's won three fights in ten years. I hope Wanderlei or somebody else beats him too so somebody else can shine?'
So is the Tito fight something you'd want?
"f--k naw! That motherf--ker has won three fights in ten years. He acts like him fighting me does him a favor. It really doesn't. Me fighting him does him a favor. Three fights in ten years. C'mon man. Are you serious?"
They brought all three of you into TNA, did they have any direction at all for you, Rampage and Tito?
"Not really, with the fight schedule it was hard. Bellator with Bjorn was iffy. Coker would have done a better job trying to coordinate the schedule with TNA. I think the blame is on Bjorn. I was working with Kenny King and people at FSW. I was hoping I could do something, me and Kenny King, the Knockout Kings. Bjorn, I don't know what his plan was. I don't think he had a plan."
Do you see yourself fighting for Rizin again?
"Possibly. It could happen. We'll have to see."
Are you open to more tournaments?
"I'm open to anything. If it pays good, I'm down."
You seem remarkably easy to book. Do you think that versatility helps you? You don't really hear about King Mo turning down fights.
"There have been a few instances where I've turned down something because I'm injured, but I try not to turn down anything. If the money's there and it makes sense, Mo is taking the fight."
Anything else to leave the fans with ahead of Bellator 154 and your fight with Phil Davis?
"I'm definitely gonna rumble. I came to rumble. My boy Jordan Parsons was injured in a hit-and-run accident, so my mindset has changed. I'm going to bang. It's free on Spike. Good fights, good knockouts. Sergei Kharitonov is going to be on the card, he comes to bang too. We're going to shock some people and turn some heads."
Finally, tell the fans where they can follow you on social media.
You can hear the full interview in the audio player below, or you can download it at this link. Bellator 154 takes place this Saturday and airs free on Spike TV.