Bloody Elbow Roundtable: Was King Mo's Release From Zuffa Reasonable?

Image via Showtime Sports

Ben Thapa: Was the release of Muhammed Lawal (King Mo) from Strikeforce reasonable in light of all the stories and facts involved?

Tim Burke: Yes, it was reasonable. In my opinion, Mo misinterpreted the commissioner's question. While it was remarkably condescending, it was asked in reference to his paperwork being filled out incorrectly if I'm not mistaken. Not understanding English has been used as a defense for incorrect paperwork in the past. Yes, he obviously demonstrated the ability to speak English in the seven minutes before that. But the blatantly obvious question wasn't a shot at Mo, it was to close a line of defense. According to many that have seen her in commission meetings before, Lundvall is like this all the time regardless of who is standing in front of her. I can't say what her intentions were for sure obviously, and I don't blame Mo for his interpretation of things, but he handled it very badly either way.

The bottom line to me is that the UFC has to uphold the commission's authority, because it needs the commission to operate. If a Zuffa fighter is going to attack a commission member publicly like that, Zuffa has every right to tell the fighter to go work somewhere else so they don't have to deal with that headache. People can scream hypocrisy and all that, but it will fall on deaf ears. They are running a business, and they made a business decision. End of story.

And I can just imagine what this lady is going to ask Nick Diaz next month at his hearing.

Fraser Coffeen: I say no. And that's coming from someone who really actively dislikes the use of the word bitch, or baseless accusations of racism. But I think Lundvall was inappropriate in her question. Not horribly so (like, not bad enough that she should face any repercussions), but it was rude and not appropriate for a government official conducting an official hearing.

Now, does that mean Mo should then jump on twitter and call her a "racist b**ch"? Certainly not. That was a stupid thing to do. But to be released from your contract over it? It seems unnecessary to me. And, yes, hypocritical when you look at some of the sexist antics of a guy like Rampage. I know what you're saying Tim when you say Zuffa doesn't care about that accusation of hypocrisy, and I agree with you. But just because they won't listen doesn't mean it's not a valid complaint.

Brent Brookhouse: I think the most important thing here is the difference between what was said and what Mo has been saying was said. From the audio, Lundvall is asking about the questionnaire that was filled out prior to the fight where Mo did not say anything about his knee injury or the use of the supplement. She didn't ask if he knew how to "speak" English, she asked "Can you understand English? Do you read English?" Which, as Tim pointed out, was to make perfectly clear that Mo had the ability to read and understand what he was signing. Plenty of people can speak English but are unable to read. It closed off the idea that he "didn't understand what he was signing" when he put his name on the questionnaire. If you signed something that you acknowledge that you have the ability to read and comprehend, you really have no defense against the idea of not disclosing.

If Mo felt that her actions were inappropriate, then he could have taken actions of his own. But the NSAC is responsible for handling far too much important stuff for the promotion to allow fighters to call their commissioner a "racist b**ch." Let's also not forget that this is coming on the back of the fact that his punishment was handed down for a banned substance. So combine the two and I think there's a reasonable argument to be made that they had to release him. This was the commissioner of the biggest state combat commission in the country, and Zuffa's home state.

I think these are important steps in making it clear to fighters that "think before you tweet" remains important. I'm sure Mo will be back on the roster sometime in early 2013, but I think it was important to send a message that they don't support him right now for his actions.

KJ Gould: Mo's twitter outburst was his own undoing. Even if he believes he has a case to call into question the motives of Lundvall's lines of inquiry, by making public his distaste for her and including misogynistic language, it makes everyone associated with Mo - including Zuffa - look bad.

Rampage directly challenging the UFC brass is different, since although he made things public it was still an internal dispute. Roping the commission into it, who can at a whim make fighters and promoters alike jump through hoops just to make a point, makes for a difficult future working relationship. Mo's release is likely an appeasement from Zuffa to the commission,, because Zuffa doesn't need anymore headaches from dealing with them.

Ben Thapa: At the same time, as someone who has dealt with racism in the past and as someone who has had to own up to screwing up something extremely badly, I can understand in a way Mo's reaction and anger. Instead of engaging in the time-honored "denyin' and lyin'" strategy, he owned up to it, pinpointed the exact substance, tried to show that he had no intentions of using it for competitive advantage and jumped through the hoops that the commission set for him at the time. And he's doing all of this with a PICC line into his body that's staving off severe staph infections that could have taken his leg.

In return for this display of maturity and contrition, he gets grilled by the commission - and by Lundvall specifically - in a manner that is ABSOLUTELY the worst way to get the needed answers or information. It is all too easy to connect the precise English fluency and literacy questions that Lundvall asked to racist practices that have been in place for a long time and are not yet scoured from the face of the planet as they should be. I believe that while he was experiencing that giant wave of hurt, rejection and punishment, Mo actually reacted very well - aside from the "b**ch" comment.

Seriously, how do you react when the impartial commission you are present before in regards to continuing your professional livelihood - while deathly ill - starts asking you questions that reek of racism against minorities? Mo was answering the questions as tersely as possible, while controlling his immediate outbursts and rising anger. I honestly don't know if I'd do the same in that situation. I do not believe the release was appropriate and that Zuffa could have smoothed the ruffled feathers without cutting anyone or taking any flak from either side.

Fraser Coffeen: I can see that point KJ, but I guess I'd say that, if the commission decides to make Zuffa or Mo jump through hoops just to spite him/them for Mo's comments, well, that's a pretty unreasonable and unethical thing to do as well. Though I am beginning to get the sinking feeling that I am being a little too idealistic here and not basing my views on reality.

KJ Gould: Commissions have often given the impression they're more concerned about exerting authority and marking territory, rather than making objective rulings or deciding matters they've been given authority to. Not all commissions or commissioners do, and it's not something that happens all the time, but based on the video of hearings we've had public access to it appears to have been the case in the past.

I've no doubt Lawal felt genuinely upset and offended by the comments made, but that's something you talk to your lawyer about, not to twitter. His outburst has likely cost him pursuing the matter further should he have wanted to form a legal complaint about Lundvall's perceived behavior.

Brent Brookhouse: This isn't unusual behavior from this commission (or any other, really) toward any fighter. Commission hearings are usually self-important, over-the-top and showy. It wasn't particular to Mo and, while the question may bring up feelings based on racist practices, that doesn't make it an illegitimate question if asked for an honest reason.

If Mo's answer had been "I can read, but suffer from dyslexia" a response many college graduates could give. Then there is a whole new avenue that needs to be explored. By saying "did you sign the document?" and then clarifying that he had the capacity to have adequately understood the document he signed.

The other part of the context here is that Mo's manager JUST explained that HE had filled out the paperwork for Mo and Mo just signed it. I think it's entirely legitimate to ask if he has the ability to read English in that situation. He signed a document that didn't list what he took and his manager filled it out. By making him answer that it wasn't questioning his intelligence, it was clarifying that he didn't have his manager fill out paperwork because he can't read as well as clarifying that he was capable of understanding that which he was signing.

Honestly, the "he's seriously ill" thing shouldn't factor in at all.

Tim Burke: I don't think that using his (flimsy) defense for failing a steroid test or his current medical status should be used as reasoning for calling a commission member a "racist bitch" for the whole world to see. Plus, while I can see why Mo reacted that way, the line of questioning towards him happens all the time.

KJ Gould: I think it all comes down to a real lack of PR training for Mo and his camp. You can't use twitter like a valve to vent pressure whenever you feel like it; you have to be fully cognizant that publicly made comments have consequences. It's not just Mo, plenty of fighters, athletes and other working professionals slip up through twitter and social media and there are countless examples of this.

If it's not part of the agenda already, use of social media and speaking to the press needs to be a focus at the UFC's next annual fighter summit, to stop stuff just like this from ever happening. If Mo had shown just a little more care, he might still be under Zuffa contract. How Mo handles and carries himself from here on out may determine if he gets brought back by Zuffa, and how quickly. It worked for Miguel Torres

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