In a unique deal, former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal, recently released by Zuffa, has signed a deal that will have him splitting time between Bellator Fighting Championships and TNA Impact Wrestling.
Officials from the two organizations, as well as Spike TV, announced the signing on a Thursday conference call. Lawal, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney, TNA Entertainment president Dixie Carter and Spike TV president Kevin Kay took part in Thursday's call.
Looking for a home after his release from Strikeforce and Zuffa, Lawal now will compete for Bellator in the light heavyweight division – and also limelight with appearances for TNA Wrestling. TNA airs its "sports entertainment" on the Spike TV cable network, the same network that Bellator will move to in 2013 after finishing out 2012 at its current home on MTV2.
"This is a dream come true for me. I'm pretty much speechless," Lawal said Thursday. "I came to the realization that I can knock people out in the cage and hit people with chairs in the ring. Both ways, I'm winning. The future's looking bright right now."
Rebney said he's excited for the unique opportunity to have Lawal in his brand, but also to see him cross over to the pro wrestling arena.
"It's a first-of-its kind opportunity and it took the right kind of person to put this together," Rebney said. "(It takes) someone who had the wherewithal and history to play in both realms at the same time. As a fan, taking my CEO hat off, I can't wait to see this all unfold."
Lawal said he plans on being a part of Bellator's next light heavyweight tournament and hopes to become a champion there – but that he was willing to do as much pro wrestling for TNA Impact as was needed.
"I will enter the tournament and win the tournament and get that belt," Lawal said. "My knee's healing up and I'm doing rehab. As far as the wrestling while fighting, whatever Dixie and Bjorn want to do, I'll do. I'm a workhorse."
Lawal was still under contract when he was released by Zuffa. And though UFC president Dana White has reportedly said the door wouldn't be closed to bringing Lawal back, King Mo closed it on Thursday.
"Let's put it like this: The door's closed," Lawal said. "I'm not going to wait for nobody. If someone comes to me with something that makes sense and is a good deal, I'm going to take the best deal. Right now, Bellator and Impact Wrestling is the best deal I could possibly get, and I'm glad I chose it. Let's be real. There's only two organizations out there: Zuffa and Bellator. I could've waited for Zuffa to take me back in September, or take what Bellator and Impact wrestling had to offer. You've got Hulk Hogan, Sting, Dixie, Bjorn – all calling me. I'm not going to wait for some type of date. That's not me."
Lawal has had a rough 2012. He tested positive for steroids following his last fight, a knockout win over Lorenz Larkin on Jan. 7. In March, he appeared before the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which was ruling on his punishment. Ultimately, the NSAC voted unanimously to suspend Lawal for nine months and fined him $39,000 – 30 percent ($24,000) of his $80,000 purse for that fight, plus his $15,000 win bonus. Additionally, the victory was overturned from a win to a no contest.
But after the hearing, Lawal went on his Twitter account to rant not necessarily about the fine and suspension, but one particular commission member, Pat Lundvall, and one portion of her line of questioning. Audio from the hearing obtained by MMA Weekly shows Lundvall asking Lawal if he understands and reads English. In his Tweet, which later was removed, Lawal inferred that Lundvall was racist in her line of questioning and called her a derogatory name. "I honestly feel like Lundvall was a racist (b***h) asking me if I can read or speak English. Go on somewhere with that bull(s**t)," Lawal said.
Lawal further claimed on Twitter that he went to the hearing to take responsibility for the banned substance being in his system, and was respectful to the commission – but believed Lundvall's questions toward him were over the line. But as UFC and Zuffa president Dana White showed in December by firing Miguel Torres after a Twitter "joke" post involving rape, his fighters are asked to use "common sense" in what they post on social media – and Lawal's response to Lundvall may have been too inflammatory. (Torres was later brought back by the UFC.)
Lawal also has been dealing with the effects of more than a dozen surgeries following a staph infection that arose after knee surgery.
Lawal (8-1, 1 NC) is an NCAA Division I All-American and Division II national champion wrestler. He started his MMA career 7-0, winning the Strikeforce 205-pound title against Gegard Mousasi in April 2010. But he lost it in his first defense against Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante in August 2010.
Article by Matt Erickson