Published on Friday, 30 March 2012 23:35
You Don't Know Mo
by Jody Kohn
Recently Muhammad Lawal was released from his Strikeforce contract over a tweet in which he called a female member of the Nevada State Athletic Commission a "racist bitch" after she spoke to him in a very derogatory tone during his hearing to decide his punishment following a recent failed drug test.
When she asked him if he were able to read and write, Mo a very proud black man took offense to it as he saw that as not only an attack on his education, but as an attack on his color. Whether or not it was has already been debated to death and this article does not intend to further explore that question. What I do hope to get across is where his thoughts came from as well as provide a better look at the man himself who I believe has been grossly misrepresented through this ordeal.
I first met Mo when he began working with my partner Jeff Mayweather. I have been fortunate enough to meet a lot of fighters, most of whom have been surprisingly friendly. When Jeff told me he would be working with Mo, I was excited, but wondered if his public persona was an accurate reflection of him as a man. The answer to that question is a resounding yes........and no.
Mo has a reputation for saying exactly what he thinks, without the use of a filter. All these recent problems certainly point that out as being the truth. And it is. Mo "keeps it real" both on camera and in general conversation. He and I have had some heated debates on the business, individual fighters, and non-sports related issues as well. He likes to point out how he is going to educate me so that I stop thinking like a fan. Although we may never agree on certain things, I love the debate. Mo is a smart man and debating him on any topic is challenging.
His candor is the thing I most appreciate about him. In a world where most atheltes are like Derek Jeter, never saying anything interesting or from the heart, Mo is a throwback to a different time where people said what was on their mind. While that is usually something to be appreciated, it can at times lead to problems, just as it has here. And this result is a glaring example of why most athletes are starting to clam up.
The thing about Mo is that he doesn't really know how to play the game. As I said, I have met a lot of fighters, most of them have been very friendly towards me. But as an outsider, I could always feel the distance. They always keep you at an arms length in an effort to prevent any potential issues. It's sad, but it's hard to blame them. Mo, however, never got the memo on proper pro athlete etiquette.
When Jeff introduced me to Mo as his friend, that was good enough for Mo. They have such a good chemistry that I think Mo figured if Jeff trusted me, that worked for him. Immediately I was privy to stories, conversations, and debates that I never expected to have. I wasn't hearing Mo talking to me in a guarded tone, but instead I was getting his side of things as he would tell a close friend or peer. I loved every minute of it and appreciated him for it.
Topping that, when Mo and Jeff were in the cage working, Mo, ready to have a little fun, called both me and my friend in the cage to roll. For the next ten minutes he proceeded to beat the crap out of us, making it as humiliating as possible. Again, I loved every minute of it. How many other world class athletes take the time to do that? We both got a great memory out of it and I think Mo had fun too. Most people go their entire life and never get a chance to compete (I use that term loosely here) with the best in the world. I have.
And he isn't like that with just me, or a select few. He is like that with everybody. If you look at his Twitter account, you will see he has 17,000 followers. and if any of them address him, he will reply to them. All of them. Whether you say something positive or negative, you can be sure he will respond. How many other fighters can you say that about? Not many. Every day I see thousands of people talking to fighters, begging for acknowledgement or a simple retweet. Most come up empty handed. Even the supposed "good guys" of mma too often fail to acknowledge their fans. Not Mo. Love him or hate him, if you address him, he will respond.
As I have gotten to know him a little over the past several months, I have found myself becoming very defensive of him when I hear or read people speaking about him negatively. I have to try to talk myself out of constantly coming to his defense in what I know will be a losing battle on message boards and social media. If people had any idea the difference between reality and perception, they would not say so many of the things they continue to say. That's why this entire situation has taken on a personal nature to me and why recent events seem to have been blown so far out of proportion. If people, as Mo likes to say, could look at things not like a fan, but as how they really are, they would likely view them differently.
Tomorrow, in the second part of "You Don't Know Mo," we will look at the difficult last several months in Mo's life and the build up to the suspension.
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