As most MMA fans know, discussions regarding Bellator often involve comparisons to the UFC and whether the Viacom owned promotion is a major competitor. Whether it’s because so many other promotions have tanked over the years, or have been bought up by UFC’s parent company Zuffa, Bellator’s rise has spawned yet another ‘rivalry’ narrative (of course, having UFC boss man Dana White and former Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney verbally spar only furthered such talk).
Well, one man who doesn’t agree with all this discussion about a Bellator-UFC rivalry is “King Mo” Lawal. As you likely know, Lawal is one of Bellator’s top light-heavyweights, and during his time with Strikeforce, there was talk of whether he would head to the UFC. Ultimately, the outspoken and talented fighter opted for Bellator, and Lawal’s gone 6-3 since.
“I like the direction it’s going,” Lawal said. “As far as rivalries go, at Bellator we ain’t got no rivalries, we just worry about what we gotta do to entertain the people and entertain the fans and getting people watching us. Everybody wants to make it ‘the UFC verse everybody’. No, the UFC does their thing, Bellator does their thing. If that’s the case, I guess the NBA and the NFL have a big rivalry. No, NFL does their thing, NBA does their thing. It’s just [that] people want to make a rivalry about something.”
Of course, some would argue that the NBA should concern itself with how other sports leagues are doing, since in theory, they compete for fans, television ratings etc. Others, might argue, that since the NFL and NBA are different sports, a rivalry is impossible altogether.
All that aside, Lawal’s right in that Bellator needs to focus on what it’s doing, and entertain fans. The news that Bellator 131 averaged over a million viewers and peaked at 2 million, could reflect that the promotion is doing just that, even if hardcore fans didn’t exactly yelp for joy when Tito Ortiz-Stephan Bonnar was announced.
In addition, Lawal also offered this pretty intriguing comment, regarding whether MMA is like other sports:
“MMA is not a true sport like football and basketball. With football and basketball – even rugby and all those other sports – they have feeder programs where they weed out the weak. So eventually the best gets to the top league. The UFC, they can sign whoever they want. They can sign a guy – and even Bellator – In MMA, any organization can sign anybody that warrants the hype. I can get a bum, let him fight crocodiles lizards and snakes and then put it on YouTube, have him 5 MMA fights, have him win against 5 bums and guess what? Throw up the hype off the YouTube videos and Instagram, and next thing you know he might get signed by a big organization, off the hype.”
Hype is definitely a huge, huge part of MMA, and self promotion also goes a long ways if one does it well. Thankfully for Lawal, he has significant skills for both fighting and talking (see his eye brow raising comments regarding Ortiz here...)
The 33 year-old, light-heavyweight is coming off a third round, stoppage win over Joe Vedepo at the aforementioned Bellator 131.