'King Mo' has been praising the fans ahead of his trip to Ireland next week
Muhammad ‘King Mo’ Lawal is the biggest marquee name Bellator have brought over from the US with them ahead of their Dublin debut next Friday at the 3 Arena.
The Rizin Heavyweight Grand Prix champion, and former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, tops the bill in a heavyweight clash against Olympic judo gold medalist Satoshi Ishii. However, he admits that he wasn’t all that pushed about competing in the Emerald Isle until he visited for press obligations last month.
"First, I wasn’t that excited to come over there because it’s cold, but when I went over, I saw how cool all the people were and I changed my mind,” revealed ‘King Mo’.
"I met this guy called Anthony - he’s a driver - and I can’t wait to see that guy again. He’s cool as hell, that’s my dog. Like I said, everyone was cool. Gallagher seemed like a cool guy too.
"When you watch American television, you expect everybody to be drunk and just fist fighting each other out on the street, but everyone was just real laid back with me. I liked that."
The Irish fans have made a name for themselves all over the world for the colourful backdrops they provide for combat sports events. UFC’s infamous Fight Night card in July 2014 has been referred to as one of best atmospheres in the history of the promotion.
‘King Mo’ knows what the Irish fans want to see, and hopes that Ishii will meet him in the middle of the cage and go toe-to-toe for the enjoyment of the spectators in the building.
"I want to perform in front of anybody that wants to have a good time," Lawal said."The Irish fans are well known for that, so we’ve got to come out here and give the people a show. I hope Satoshi Ishii is down for that."
"We can’t come to Ireland and not show off our boxing skills. Ireland has one of the strongest boxing histories in all of Europe. I want to let them hands go like Tyson Fury. I’m a big Tyson Fury fan. Not only can he punch, but the boy can sing too!" he laughed.
Lawal has reached out to his co-main event counterpart, James Gallagher, who is providing the Bellator portion of the night with its biggest Irish interest.
Excited to fight on the same card as the 20-year-old jiu-jitsu prodigy, Lawal explained why fighters like ‘The Strabanimal’ usually “go very far.”
"James and Anthony (Taylor) have the chance to blow the roof of this arena when they go out there," he remarked on the co-main event.
"It’s weird when you talk to Gallagher, because he talks as if he has been fighting for decades. He obviously hasn’t been, but you can tell he has geared his whole life toward this from a very young age.
"He’s very mature. He understands the business. He’s well spoken. He loves to train and he loves to fight. He’s very composed at all times. I was composed when I crossed over from wrestling to MMA too, but this guy is on a different level, because he has been a fighter since he became a teenager. People like him usually go very far.”
One possible danger a lot of insiders and older professionals talk about when it comes to the talented emerging pro ranks we have in Ireland, is the expectation that’s put on their shoulders.
Some of the cast of Friday night’s card — Gallagher, Dylan Tuke, Rhys McKee — are already being talked about by fans as future champions in the big organizations. The fear is that the athletes will crumble under the pressure put on them by their passionate support.
Having come up in the fight game in America, Lawal believes the Irish support is one of the best things an emerging pro could have behind them, based on his own remarkable experiences in the States over the years.
"I think it’s amazing that he has fans that are so passionate about him making it to the top. It’s completely different in America, because half of the people that watch you, your fellow countrymen, they want you to lose.
"In Ireland, the people support their fighters. So you could be backstage all nervous, but the moment you’re walking out you see all these fans with so much positive energy being sent in your direction, that would make you want to perform for your country.
A photo posted by James gallagher (@james1gallagher) on
"I feel like the fans in Ireland are a massive incentive for guys like Conor McGregor and Joe Duffy, and now James, to go out say ‘We’re Ireland and we have some of the best fighters in the world.’ That’s a good thing. In America, the support can be awful.
"I fought Gegard Mousasi in Tennessee, right? I was born in Tennessee. We fought in Nashville and I was born 15 minutes from there. When they announced my name and I was making my way out I got booed. Mousasi was born in Iran. He’s an Armenian. When his music hit, they went crazy. You would’ve thought he was the hometown guy.
"Same thing happened when Brett Rogers fought Fedor in Chicago. Again, the guy was born in Chicago, in Cabrini Green projects, a man of the people. They booed him like crazy when he walked out. Then, when Fedor walked out, I thought the president had just walked into the venue.
"That’s not just Irish people cheering for Conor when he fights over here, that’s the Americans too. Guess what country his opponents usually come from? You see the pattern here?"
Finally, ‘King Mo’ explained how Gallagher is showing the varying variety of fighters that the Irish bring to the table. The common misconception is that all Irish fighters are striking based stylists, but Gallagher’s slick jiu-jitsu is the perfect way to show that the country can bring a lot more to the table than striking.
"I think we need as much variety as we can get in terms of the fighters that we have on the roster. I think a lot of people just think the Irish are about striking because of Conor’s success, but now here comes James Gallagher and that guy is just an outstanding grappler."