Following a year out of MMA, former Strikeforce champion Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal feels he was able to jump right back into the sport when he returned this past January as part of this season’s Bellator light heavyweight tournament.
“It felt great (to return to fighting),” said Lawal. “(The time off) went by pretty fast and I got right back in the mix (because) I’m always studying, I’m always watching, so it wasn’t a big deal to me.”
Lawal told MMAWeekly.com that he feels his win over Przemyslaw Mysiala in the first round of the tournament showcased a style he intends to use moving forward in his career.
“I was trying to be patient because with the old me, I’d be patient but I was trying to kill with every punch I threw, but now I have more of a boxing approach,” Lawal said. “I try to jab more and break them down systematically.
“I thought he’d come out there a little more tentative, but he came out swinging, but didn’t land. I caught him with a short check-hook and I think it kind of scared him because he didn’t see it coming. From there I just started jabbing and picking him apart.”
Initially when the tournament was announced, many anticipated an eventual bout between Lawal and fellow former Strikeforce champion Renato “Babalu” Sobral. Unfortunately Sobral lost his quarterfinal round fight to Mikhail Zayats, eliminating that possibility, which is fine by Lawal.
“Everybody wants to fight the easiest fight they can get to win,” said Lawal. “Babalu would have been a tough fight for me because we train together. Fighting Emanuel (instead) kind of makes it somewhat easier I guess because I don’t have to fight my friend.”
Looking forward to his bout Thursday with Emanuel Newton live on Spike TV, Lawal is wary of his opponent’s style, but he feels he has to grin and bear it to take the win.
“I’ve got to be patient and find his rhythm out,” said Lawal of Newton. “He’s got an awkward rhythm as a fighter, so I’ve just got to figure it out and then touch him a few times.
“I’m pretty strong and my timing and wrestling will be a big advantage for me, but his size will be to his advantage and with a strange rhythm at the same time could make it an ugly fight, but my goal is to go out there and get that W.”
Lawal feels that being part of Bellator’s tournament format and the rewards that come with winning it will help drive him towards a big year in 2013.
“Hopefully, if all goes right, I’ll have five fights this year,” he said. “I’m glad I’ve gotten a chance to be in this tournament and work reel to reel in these fights.
“Winning the belt is cool too – and yeah I want the belt – but the money that comes with the belt too. Money and the belt is the big motivator.”