It appears that April’s RIZIN.15 event may have been the last time fight fans got to see former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammad ‘King Mo’ Lawal compete in mixed martial arts. The 2013 Bellator light heavyweight tournament winner and 2015 RIZIN heavyweight Grand Prix champion’s retirement was announced in a brief statement from American Top Team, on Instagram.
“I just wanted to give @kingmofh a shout out and congrats for all he’s accomplished in this sport,” the social media post began. “For those that aren’t aware, he’s decided to ‘hang em up’ and dedicate the next chapter of his life to coaching our pro fighters. I have to note, I’ve seen countess fighters train and walk through our doors and King Mo is hands down one of the best teammates I have ever seen. Beyond selfless. Proud to call him a teammate and even more excited to have him working and coaching full time with the squad. All the best Mo!! Congrats on a hell of a career!! Lets keep it positive and show this man some love!”
Lawal, a former D1 All American and multiple time Senior US national champion entered MMA in 2008, after missing out on a spot for the US Olympic team—making his debut in World Victory Road’s Sengoku organization. While there, he built a reputation for his flashy ring entrances and dominating physical style. Just two years after making his pro debut, Lawal beat Gegard Mousasi to capture the Strikeforce light heavyweight championship and take his record to an unbeaten 7-0.
A loss to Cavalcante in his next bout derailed Lawal’s title reign. And although he would win his next two bouts (the Larkin win was later overturned), lingering knee problems – from a torn ACL suffered in training for Ryo Kawamura – began to become a bigger problem. Following his KO over Lorenz Larkin in 2012, Lawal failed a drug test for Drostanolone, something he blamed on a supplement called “S-Mass Lean Gainer” that he had apparently been using for recovery. He also underwent another knee surgery, which would lead to a staph infection that he claims “almost killed” him—and more than a dozen more surgeries to repair the damage. In the midst of all that the then UFC-owned Showtime promotion released him from his contract.
By 2013, Strikeforce would be folded into the UFC, and King Mo would be in the promotion he called home for the rest of his career: Bellator. Mo went 10-6 with Bellator, losing a bid for the promotion’s Interim light heavyweight title to Emmanuel Newton in 2013 (one of five times he competed that year). He was also a competitor in five different tournaments for the promotion, winning their 2013 Summer Series four-man tourney.
Apart from his Bellator bouts, Lawal was also loaned to Japanese promotion RIZIN several times, starting with the 2015 Heavyweight World Grand Prix. He won that tournament, defeating Teodoras Aukstuolis and Jiri Prochazka in the same night on New Year’s Eve.
Lawal will leave MMA with a 21-9 (1 NC) record, on the back of three stoppage losses to Ryan Bader, Liam McGeary, and most recently a rematch against Jiri Prochazka. And although he attracted his share of controversy over the years – largely due to his brash personality outside the cage – he also built a reputation as of the best light heavyweights to never compete in the UFC. Hopefully coaching treats him just as well.