Muhammed Lawal, once considered one of the best fighters in the world outside of the UFC, is retiring, he confirmed Monday with ESPN.
Lawal, 38, better known in MMA as "King Mo," said he'll be focusing now on coaching at his longtime American Top Team (ATT) gym in Coconut Creek, Florida. ATT announced Lawal's move to a coaching position Monday on social media. Lawal said he'll continue on with his work in independent professional wrestling as well.
The reason for the transition, Lawal said, is mainly injuries. Lawal has been plagued by knee and hip injuries throughout his 11-year career. He said he has also been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, which has resulted in him being unable to keep on weight. Lawal, who fought mostly at 205 pounds in his career, said he weighs less than 200 pounds walking around now.
Lawal said he is content with his decision and his run in the sport.
"I had fun," Lawal said. "I'm gonna tell you this. A lot of people are worried about winning titles and this and that. I'm worry about having fun. It's like this, if you're having fun doing something, mostly likely it means you were winning."
Lawal (21-9, 1 NC) won the Strikeforce light heavyweight title in 2010 at a time when Strikeforce was the clear No. 2 promotion in the world behind the UFC. The former Division I wrestling All-American at Oklahoma State is also a former Bellator light heavyweight tournament and Rizin 2015 heavyweight grand prix champion. Lawal just missed qualifying to wrestle in the Olympics in 2008 before moving to mixed martial arts. He has beaten the likes of Gegard Mousasi and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in his career.
King Mo had lost his last three fights by TKO, most recently in Rizin (as part of a Bellator talent share) to Jiri Prochazka in April.
In 2012, Lawal suffered an ACL injury to his knee and then developed a staph infection while recovering from surgery in the hospital. It cost him a year of his prime, which included a failed drug test, and he never quite regained his previous form. But Lawal said he doesn't look back at any of those things with dismay.
"I never think that, because then I'd go crazy," Lawal said. "But man, all those times I ran extra miles, it was stupid. I never should have done that, because it messed my hip up. All those squats I did and box jumps I did, I shouldn't have done those, because it messed my knee up. All that I did in the past got me injuries, but at the same time it led me to where I'm at today. No regrets."