BSO MMA Insider Alex Donno reviews the incident that got Strikeforce fighter “King Mo” Lawal fired and has a preview of The Ultimate Fighter Live and Bellator 63.
Twitter is a great place for MMA fighters to share their thoughts with the masses. In this era of social media, athletes can interact with fans instantly, without any barrier or filter. Accessibility is paramount in this digital age. It’s why Zuffa LLC, the parent company of the UFC and Strikeforce, gives out “twitter bonuses.” Creativity and big bumps in follower count, among other factors, will earn fighters a bonus. But like Dave Chappelle once said, sometimes, keeping it real goes wrong. If you tweet your inner most thoughts in a way that comes off offensive or inflammatory in any manner, you might lose your job. Former Strikeforce champion “King Mo” Lawal learned that lesson on Tuesday.
Even before receiving his pink slip, Tuesday had gotten off to a rough start for King Mo. He appeared before the Nevada State Athletic Commission to receive a 9-month suspension and $39,000 fine for a positive PED test. He’d been hoping for a more lenient punishment, and felt offended by the questions he received from a specific commissioner. Twenty minutes into the hearing, Commissioner Pat Lundvall asked Mo if he “speaks or writes English.” To Mo and his manager Mike Kogan, those questions felt condescending and racist.
Lawal tweeted later that day: “I honestly feel like Lundvall was a racist bitch asking me if I can read or speak english, Go on somewhere with that [expletive]!!!” He clarified the tweet shortly after: “Its funny how people are tryna say that I’m callin the commission racist, No!! They aren’t. But there was one person on the panel that was out of line with the question she asked me. I found it insulting, prejudice, and a lil racist. I say racist from my past experiences, I have been asked that in the past as an insult.”
Regardless of Mo’s clarification, UFC President Dana White was not amused, and announced that Mo had been released from Strikeforce for his tweets. Of course, it’s White’s right within Zuffa’s conduct clause to fire any fighter for a tweet if he sees fit, but the big issue here is a lack of consistency in enforcing this rule. The way these punishments have been carried out is far from uniform. Former UFC champ Forrest Griffin made light of sexual assault last fall, tweeting “rape is the new missionary.” The response he got was uproarious outrage, yet White didn’t fire him, or punish him in any way. Before acting, White called Griffin for his explanation. Griffin was able to convince him that the tweet was some sort of deep philosophical statement about how society makes light of rape, when it should be a bigger deal. Whether that’s the truth or just a genius cover up, we’ll never know, but White did in fact buy it. However, when Mo wrote his tweets on Tuesday, White never called him for an explanation (this according to Mo’s manager). He took action without hearing Mo’s side of the story. Is that fair? Well, “fair” doesn’t really exist in the business world. But it’s certainly not consistent. As the UFC’s presence on social media continues to grow, it only makes sense for them to establish a more uniform way to enforce the rules they hold over it.
The good news for Mo, if history is any indication of future actions by Zuffa, is that UFC bantamweight Miguel Torres once got a second chance. About a month after the Forrest Griffin tweet, Torres tweeted out a rape joke he heard on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The tweet got him fired, but the UFC gave him his job back after he showed contrition. King Mo is not the type of fighter to lay back and accept what he feels to be unjust treatment. It’ll be interesting to see how this saga unfolds. Personally, I feel his firing was a bit of an overreaction by White, but perhaps Mo’s positive PED test was an added factor in the decision making process.
Meanwhile, The Ultimate Fighter Live returns Friday for episode four of season 15. Although the ratings have been a bit disappointing, the first three episodes earned an overwhelmingly positive reception. It’s the first season to ever offer live fights each and every week. All previous seasons were pre-recorded months in advance. As an MMA geek and long time “TUF” viewer, I can confidently say that these live fights have added an extra spark. Even if the stakes aren’t technically higher than in previous seasons, just knowing that the fight I’m watching is happening in live time makes it feel more important than ever before. Plus, coach Dominick Cruz has found ways to make things very interesting.
Last week, team Cruz fighter Justin Lawrence (the number one overall pick) defeated Team Faber’s Christiano Marcello by second round KO. A victory for team Cruz gave their coach control over the next fight. If you recall, two weeks ago, Cruz threw a curveball by deferring to Urijah Faber to pick his own fighter. That’s never happened before on TUF, and it created a delightfully awkward moment on live TV. Last week, Cruz followed that up with another bold move: picking Team Faber’s first overall pick, Al Iaquinta. Of course, the usual pattern for TUF coaches is to select the weakest link from the opposing team whenever possible, to attempt to earn an easy victory. No one expected Cruz to select Iaquinta, and it shows the confidence he has in his team. To face Iaquinta, he selected his third pick, Myles Jury.
S15 E4 (that’s geek language for Season 15, Episode 4) starts at 10:00pm EST Friday night on FX. The live fight, Myles Jury vs. Al Iaquinta, will start at roughly 10:45. Prior to the live fight, you can watch a montage of training sessions and interactions inside the house. So far, Chris Tickle of Team Cruz appears to be “that guy” who gets under everyone’s skin. There’s one of those guys every season.
In case you haven’t been keeping score, Team Cruz is 2-0 so far with victories by James Vick and Justin Lawrence. Daron Cruickshank and Christiano Marcello are the fighters from Team Faber who came up short. They’ve been eliminated from the tournament, but remain in the house in order to help their teammates train. And of course, the training they receive in the process can only help them grow as fighters. It’s not like Big Brother, where they vote you off and send you home. Plus, if and when injuries happen, a previously eliminated fighter can earn a golden ticket back into the bracket. All 16 fighters on this year’s cast are lightweights (155 lbs). The ratings for the first three episodes were 1.3, 1.1, and 1.2 respectively After a slight bounce back last week, let’s hope the trend continues.
Prior to TUF Live at 10pm, you can catch 2+ hours of live Bellator fights on MTV 2 and Epix 2. Bellator 63 features the quarterfinal (opening) round of the Season 6 welterweight tournament.
Those four bouts will be Karl Amoussou vs. Chris Lozano, Raul Amaya vs. Ben Saunders, Jordan Smith vs. David Rickels, and Bryan Baker vs. Carlos Alexandre Pereira. Of course, anything can happen in a tournament, and that’s one of the elements that make Bellator so exciting. But on paper, the three names who stand out on that list are Lozano, Saunders, and Baker. Lozano was a semifinalist in season 5, losing to eventual tournament winner Douglas Lima. Lozano has a good wrestling base, but prefers to utilize his powerful striking. His brawling style is synonymous with excitement, as he’s capable of creating fast scrambles to force opponents into a slugfest. He’s dangerous enough to beat anyone in this tournament on any given night. Ben Saunders, meanwhile, possesses some of the most dangerous knee and elbow strikes in the sport. He also has an aggressive submission game, with an undeniable ability to transition into dominant positions on the ground. He’s a 7-time UFC veteran, giving him the best resume in the tournament. In season 5, he lost to Douglas Lima in the tournament final. And then there’s Bryan Baker, another former tournament finalist (season 2). He’s competed in two previous tournaments, but both were at middleweight. His drop to 170lbs will likely mean he’ll be bigger than everyone he faces in the welterweight tournament. Nicknamed “The Beast,” his strength and power should allow him to dictate whether his fight with Pereira takes place standing or on the ground. He’s well rounded enough to dominate most opponents in either position. Baker is a survivor of chronic myelogenous leukemia, which he battled during his season 2 tournament run. He’s in full remission now, with a fresh perspective on life. After literally fighting for his life two years ago, being healthy enough to fight in Bellator is truly a blessing.
Bellator 63 starts Friday at 8:00pm EST on MTV 2 and Epix 2. It usually runs a few minutes past 10pm, so there might be a slight overlap with TUF Live.