It’s been a horrible 2012 for “King” Mohammed Lawal, who last night got cut from Strikeforce over a Tweet he sent about a Nevada State Athletic commissioner. And it all started so promising with his second round stoppage of Lorenz Larkin in defence of his lightheavyweight title on 7 January.
But then a failed drugs test, a staph infection, a hefty fine and the prospect of a nine month suspension left King Mo just a little bit “irate”. So irate, that immediately after his NSAC hearing he went home to Tweet that one of the commissioners, Pat Lundvall, was a “racist bitch”.
Out of line? Offensive? Probably. Most likely, yes. But let’s put things into context.
King Mo tested positive for banned anabolic steroid Drostanolone back in January after the Larkin fight. Yesterday he was called up in front of the commission to make his case.
King Mo claimed that the banned substance was hidden in a supplement he bought from a store, and had no idea that it contained the steroid. But, the commission charged, King Mo failed to disclose any supplements he had been taking on the medical questionnaire he had to sign before the fight. What followed was an exchange with NSAC commissioner Pat Lundvall.
Lundvall: So no apologies for falsifying as far as the medical questionnaire is concerned? My question to you is, you signed this medical questionnaire after [your manager] filled it out, did you not?
King Mo: I did, I did
Lundvall: And you understand English? And you read English?
King Mo: Mm hmm
Lundvall: And you knew as far as by signing this that the information on this medical questionnaire was supposed to be true and correct?
King Mo: Yes
The commission voted unanimously to take King Mo’s win bonus from the fight, and 30% of his fight purse. In addition to the fines handed down, King Mo was also suspended for nine months starting retroactively from the date of the fight against Larkin. The fight will also be overturned from a win to a no-contest.
But it wasn’t the penalty that most got to King Mo. It was the questioning. On returning home King Mo Tweeted: “I honestly feel like Lundvall was a racist bitch asking me if I can read or speak English. Go on somewhere with that bullshit bitch!!!”
He quickly deleted the Tweet but the damage was done. Strikeforce’s parent company Zuffa released King Mo from his contract immediately.
That seems a little harsh, not least because the lines Zuffa draws seem so ill-defined. While some athletes would only get slaps on the wrist for a more vulgar outburst, others would get cut for saying less.
Zuffa encourages its athletes to use Twitter to keep in touch with fans. The company even hands out quarterly bonuses for creativity on the social media service. Twitter has been a very handy device for hyping fights, as smack-talk between fighters often starts and ends with Twitter. But when fighters go too far, Zuffa is strict in meting out its punishment.
And this isn’t the first time Twitter has caused problems for a Zuffa-signed MMA fighter. Miguel Torres was also cut last year for making a joke about a “rape van”, but has since been re-signed after showing contrition. A month before Dana White personally called up Forrest Griffin after he Tweeted a rape joke, but he survived.
The medium itself has inherent problems. In only 140 character you have to articulate your message all in the comfort of your own home, which makes it feel all that more private and personal. It doesn’t seem like you are communicating to the world’s media, but rather your coterie of loyal followers – many of whom you banter with regularly on the site.
That’s not to excuse anything that is said on Twitter. Individuals should be held accountable as much as what is said online as offline. But Twitter blurs the boundary between intimate and public, and with those “blurrings”, it’s inevitable that fighters will stray the mark.
On Ariel Helwani’s MMA After Hours show last night, King Mo’s manager Mike Kogan hinted that if it was a more well known MMA star, such as Jon Jones or GSP, then he would not have been treated the same.
“I don’t know what [Zuffa’s] reasoning behind it was because I am not them and I cannot say it with certainty. But, just my personal opinion, if I’d come out of that meeting and said Ariel Helwani is a fucking moron because he doesn’t know how to report news adequately and he just misquoted everything Mo said, I’d doubt we’d be cut, so you draw your own conclusions from that.”
And maybe that’s what it ultimately boiled down to. Not because King Mo called a woman a bitch (far worse is said by many fighters on Twitter) or that he accused Lundvall of racism. But because she was a Nevada State Athletics Commissioner – the UFC’s home state and its’ most valuable territory for staging MMA fights. For that reason alone, it seems necessary to make an example out of King Mo.