When “King” Muhammed Lawal was released from his Strikeforce contract, Bellator was quick to snatch up what they believed to be their next big star. He possessed an elite wrestling pedigree, a star personality, and a litany of knockouts on his record to back up his talk, making him the perfect addition to a promotion on the cusp of their major cable debut. Bellator’s tournament format made it difficult to set him up with an immediate title shot, so they instead placed him in a relatively shallow light heavyweight tournament and hoped for the best.
His debut went according to plan, as Lawal was able to score a stunning first round knockout over a lesser known foe. At the very least, Bellator was building highlight reel footage that could be used to make his eventual rein look that much more impressive. In the second round of the tournament, one spinning back fist from Emanuel Newton was all it took to bring the promotion’s plans to a crashing halt. The tournament that was meant to showcase Lawal’s skills had instead become just another reminder of the fact that in mixed martial arts truly anything can happen.
Bellator was more cautious in their second attempt, and placed him in a smaller, four-man tournament. Newton had already won light heavyweight tournament in the fall, and was on the sidelines awaiting a title shot. With a leaner field to compete against, King Mo was dominant against Seth Petruzelli and Jacob Noe, and in winning the summer tournament he earned a title shot of his own. With their pay-per-view debut around the corner, Bellator is looking to cash in on as much of their big-name talent as possible.
The only problem facing the promotion was that because Newton had not yet fought for the light heavyweight championship, he still had priority in the booking of a fight. Fortunes changed when news emerged that the champion, Atilla Vegh, had suffered an injury. With the champion on the shelf, Bellator decided to schedule an “interim” fight that pairs the two most recent tournament winners against one another.
A rematch against Newton will give Lawal the opportunity to avenge the most embarrassing loss of his career. There is certainly no love lost between the two, and King Mo looks to prove that he is worth the lucrative contract and promotional boost the company has awarded him. He had the following to say of his opponent:
“Listen, I’m going to be real honest about this, Emanuel is fake as hell. He runs his mouth about being a black skinhead or something, and likes to act real hard. He’s as hard as baby s—. I’m going to destroy this guy. He landed a shot on me in our first fight, nothing more than that. I’m better than him in every facet of the game. I didn’t even shoot on him that first fight. I can take this fight anywhere I want it, and I will. It’s over. I’m taking that belt in Long Beach, bringing it back to Las Vegas, and no one is getting it back. Not Vegh, not Rampage, not Tito, not anyone. It’s mine. Payback is a b—h, Emanuel.”
Lawal v. Newton II will be another prominent bout on Bellator’s inaugural pay-per-view, airing November 2, 2013, and headlined by Quentin “Rampage” Jackson and Tito Ortiz.