The RIZIN Open Weight Grand Prix is upon us and things are about to heat up in Tokyo. Fighters sized one another up during media obligations and came face to face at the weigh-ins. A lot of the fighters on the card are huge names in the sport. Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and Heath Herring are two of the names the fight fans instantly recognize. Wanderlei Silva was also on the card until having to withdraw due to injuries. But among all the big names in the tournament, one name stands above the rest – King Mo.
Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal returns to the RIZIN stage where just one year ago he won the RIZIN Heavyweight Grand Prix. An important part of that statement is that it was the Heavyweight Grand Prix. Lawal, at 6′ and 215lbs, has the size of a light heavyweight. For comparison sake, fellow competitor Heath Herring stands at 6’4″ and 250lbs.
King Mo’s RIZIN HGP tournament win was not the first championship of his career, which dates back to 2008. Mo is a former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, having taken the title from UFC ranked contender Gegard Mousasi and won the Bellator 2013 Summer Series Light Heavyweight Tournament Championship.
While Muhammad’s mixed martial arts career dates back to 2008, his time as a competitor in combat goes back even further. Having wrestled collegiately at Oklahoma State University where he was a BIG 12 Conference National Champion and Division I All-American in his senior year in 2003. After college, Lawal continued his career at the senior level where he won the U.S. National Championship in freestyle wrestling in 2005, 2006, and 2008 at 185lbs. For over 3 years Lawal was the #1 ranked wrestler in the United States at 185lbs, something that makes his success at the heavyweight ranks of MMA all that more astonishng.
Lawal’s story gets even more amazing considering a health scare in 2012. Following a knee surgery, Mo was diagnosed with staphylococcal, better known as a staph infection. As staph goes, it can range from somewhat harmless to life-threatening. In the case of Lawal, it was the latter. Reaching a fever of 103 degrees and watching the infection eat away at parts of his hip and legs, Mo thought the end was near. “I had this moment where I was like, man, I can see my hip bone. I was ripped still and had an eight-pack. But there’s my hip bone. I looked at my leg, and it looked like those zombies from “The Walking Dead”. I feel like I looked death in the face, and I survived.”
Luckily for Mo, he is one of the rare MMA stars with crossover appeal, and with the infection behind him he was able to dabble in some professional wrestling before putting his body through the rigors of MMA and weight cutting again. While he only made a few appearances, King Mo was able to put himself in front of a whole new crowd and build his fanbase in a way that most fighters can’t.
Mo’s next match in the RIZIN OWGP is against Cro Cop, a man that has spent his while career at heavyweight and is a deadly striker. While Lawal isn’t giving much up to Cro Cop in terms of size, the rest of the field is quite sizable:
- Heath Herring – 6’4″, 250lbs
- Amir Aliakbari – 6’4″, 260lbs
- Baruto Kaito – 6’6″, 350lbs
- Tsyoshi Kohsaka – 6′, 225lbs
- Szyman Bajor – 6’1″, 230lbs
- Valentin Moldavsky – 6’2″, 215lbs
In a recent sit down with the media in Japan, Mo touched on the fact that he’s the smallest guy in the tournament. “I’m smaller than everybody in this. See, the thing is, I’m small but I have skills.” Mo definitely proved that point winning last year’s RIZIN HGP, and there could very well be one more two-weight champion crowned in 2016 if King Mo can once again pull out the victory.
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RIZIN Fighting Federation (RIZIN FF) is a Japanese regional mixed martial arts organization. It was created in 2015 by the former Pride FC president Nobuyuki Sakakibara.
RIZIN FF will broadcast on Spike TV in. The same network that houses Bellator MMA. Other official partnering broadcasters will be SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation, Fuji Television, Fox Sports Brazil, Kix and Match TV.