Big things were expected from Muhammad Lawal upon his entrance to Bellator MMA earlier this year.
Lawal, a former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, was instantly viewed by many as the favorite to win the Season Eight light heavyweight tournament en route to adding his second belt later this year.
The plan held true through the quarterfinals of the tournament, when he defeated Przemyslaw Mysiala. Lawal, who is known by the moniker ”King Mo,” looked well on his way toward completing the journey in the semifinals when he faced Emanuel Newton.
But, a momentary lapse — combined with a unique attack — stopped Lawal’s quest. Newton, who was backing away from a flurry by Lawal, turned on his heels and struck Lawal’s head with a spinning back fist to earn the victory.
”It’s not like he walked in with a spinning back fist,” Lawal, 9-2 with a no contest said. ”He threw it running away from me. He didn’t throw it when he was going forward, like Cung Le.”
Lawal, who represented the United States to win the 2007 Pan American gold medal, said his introduction to Bellator and Spike TV, which included a stint with Total Nonstop Action wrestling, did not put pressure on him to win the tournament.
”Pressure for me is when I had to go compete for the United States,” he said. ”That’s pressure. MMA, to me, that’s just fun. It’s a sport. I take it seriously. I was more nervous for wrestling than I was for MMA.”
Lawal will receive an expedited opportunity to claim a tournament championship and a title shot when he competes in the four-fighter Summer Series for Bellator. Lawal is expected to face a yet-to-be-named opponent on June 19.
”As far as me losing, I’m cool with that,” Lawal said. ”It makes you a better fighter. Every time you lose, with the mentality I have, you come back stronger.”