Interview with Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal
April 10th, 2015
Interview by Eric Asselin
I had the pleasure of talking with King Mo over the phone, and we really could have talked wrestling all night. His passion for the sport makes it all that much easier to interview.
49 North Wrestling: Hi Mo, what’s going on? Are you training right now?
Mo: Hi Eric, just trying to train smart. I have some time right now, so I’m just getting some weights in and a little technique. I don’t want to do too much not being close to a fight.
49 North Wrestling: Are you still in Florida?
Mo: Yes, Coconut Creek, Florida with Steve Mocco.
49 North Wrestling: What was it like getting back on the mat at the Grapple at the Gardens event?
Mo: It was fun. I wasn’t taking it too seriously. The 2008 Olympic trials left a bad taste in my mouth, I thought I won that match, and there were some controversial calls.
49 North Wrestling: I’ve been following wrestling for a very long time; I even remember you back from the Sunkist tourney in 2001.
Mo: (laughs) Yeah, I wrestled Canadian Steve Snijders. He was a big boy. I was wrestling up and thinking to myself this guy is too big for me. I won, but I didn’t think I would at first.
49 North Wrestling: You started late in wrestling at the age of 16 which is considered old for someone who became a world class wrestler. What made you want to try the sport?
Mo: My football coach told me I had to wrestle to improve my tackling.
49 North Wrestling: Budapest, Hungary 2005, I thought you were going to be World Champion. You were up on the tournament favourite Sajid Sajidov and had a controversial fleeing call go against you in the later seconds which had him win on criteria. I know what upset USA Wrestling the most was that the flee calls were not being called consistently throughout the tournament.
Mo: After wrestling me, he was dead. He couldn’t recover. He lost his next two matches. I was just circling in the dying seconds, and they gave me the bad call. I studied him, and I was very ready for him with a great game plan. He was a great wrestler though.
49 North Wrestling: How did you like your stay at Oklahoma State?
Mo: I enjoyed it, but collegiate season was one big season of over training. I found folkstyle more about training/wrestling hard as opposed to freestyle which was wrestling/training smart.
49 North Wrestling: Who taught you Freestyle?
Mo: Byron Tucker, Mark Munoz, Daniel Cormier, John Smith and Kevin Jackson. I depended a lot on my doubles though for big points, as my ground wrestling was not on par.
49 North Wrestling: Tell me about your time spent in Dagestan.
Mo: I loved it there. They treated us very well. The food was excellent; I loved the lamb chops and sturgeon. It was like Sparta since it is a fighting culture. Even when they played basketball, it was more of a wrestling/basketball hybrid. Olympic Champion Khadjimurad Magomedov showed us around town. He was a great guy.
49 North Wrestling: Have you thought about how much longer you want to fight for? You’re doing well right now winning your last three fights.
Mo: I won my last four (Mo making reference to his loss to Quinton Jackson which he feels he won). I’ll stop when I get bored. My body’s never been the same since my staph infection. I’m about half of what I was when I wrestled. The shape you’re in when wrestling is top shelf. I was 84 kilos and wrestling heavyweight Steve Mocco on a daily basis in Oklahoma. We would do 45 minute to 90 minute grind matches sometimes.
49 North Wrestling: Tell me about when you wrestled Steve Mocco at the Hargobind tournament here in British Columbia.
Mo: That was fun. They told us at the last minute that he and I were wrestling the challenge match. I went in there thinking I could beat him even though I wasn’t even weighing 200 pounds. Speaking of which, how are the Canadian old schools doing like Dean Schmeichel, David Zilberman, Daniel Igali, Danny Brown, Evan MacDonald etc…?
49 North Wrestling: Daniel is the Nigerian wrestling coach, Dean is a teacher, Danny and David are coaching, and Evan wrestled at Worlds a few years ago. His wife Jessica MacDonald is a World Champion.
Mo: Ah cool!
49 North Wrestling: What would you like to do after MMA?
Mo: I think I’d like to do some live commentary for a sport that I love. Maybe even commentary for Pro Wrestling. I actually don’t watch much MMA, I prefer watching boxing, freestyle wrestling and professional wrestling.
49 North Wrestling: I assume your time wrestling Mocco helped you with the weight disadvantage in your fight against Cheick Kongo?
Mo: I wrestled so many heavy guys in the room like Tolly Thompson and Kerry McCoy. I even used to do Greco with Dremiel Byers. Because of this, the weight never worried me.
49 North Wrestling: How come there was never a rematch with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson?
Mo: He left Bellator and now there are legal issues with him and the organization. He wanted a rematch after our fight, but I never heard anything after that.
49 North Wrestling: The elite in the UFC right now are filled with wrestlers such as Henry Cejudo, Chris Weidman, Cain Velasquez, Yoel Romero, Johnny Hendricks, and your good friend Daniel Cormier etc…it’s such a great base for MMA, and it is proven all the time.
Mo: A lot of guys who wrestled in High School and College as well are in MMA, but I feel that getting in some years of international wrestling after College is a good idea before entering MMA. You get to face incredible talent on a more consistent level, and this prepares you to face that type of athleticism in MMA. Commentators overusing the words “world class wrestler” when the athlete is not a world class wrestler is frustrating and annoying though.
49 North Wrestling: Mo, it was great talking to you.
Mo: Anytime, much appreciated, let me know if you’re in Texas or Florida, and we’ll chat more wrestling.