Former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion “King Mo” Lawal enters his third Bellator MMA tournament on Friday in hopes of earning another title shot. On the opposite side of the bracket sits rival Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, who is matched up against Christian M’Pumbu. If Lawal defeats his first round opponent, Mikhael Zayats, he could face Jackson in the finals, but he’s not looking that far ahead.
“I’m focusing on Zayats,” Lawal told MMAWeekly.com. “If I look past Zayats, I could (expletive) around and get beat. I’m worried Mikhail. Once I get past Mikhail, it’s not given that Rampage is going to beat M’Pumbu. You don’t know what’s going to happen. No one is psychic. No one here is Ms. Cleo. No one can predict the future. We have to wait and see what happens.”
Lawal has limited information on his Russian opponent, but sees the former Combat Sambo Russia National Champion as a challenge.
“Good sambo, good submissions, stocky, from Russia. I see a solid opponent and I’m ready to fight him,” said the 33-year-old Lawal. “Sambo is just like jiu-jitu except it’s more of a wrestling base, kind of. I’m just training when it comes down to it, training for every position.”
While Lawal slightly tailors his preparation for specific opponents, he admits he doesn’t know what to expect when the two meet at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut on Friday.
“I do tailor it a little bit, but I train for every position because who knows what this dude is going to do. This dude could be like, you know, I’m going to work on spinning back tornado kicks. He could throw that in his repertoire,” he said.
Lawal isn’t looking past Zayats, but predicts that he’ll get past him in the tournament.
“I’m going to the next round. I’m doing this for Apollo Creed. The last time I saw a black man fight a Russian, he got killed in an exhibition,” said Lawal.