Muhammad Lawal is a man of many convictions. One is to be the best at his craft of mixed martial arts, and the other is to be taken seriously at all times. It is a sentiment that reverberates through any conversation with him and he is quick to remind you when you are mistaken about any misconception you might hold about him. Lawal lives in a space where reality is king and he understands that to win in combat sports you have to pick a side.

“I make the fans polarized like either they love me or they hate me,” said Lawal. “I want people to show their true intentions. If you’re on the fence, then don’t like me, just hate me. I want you to either love me or hate me; no in between, no “I’m not sure”; if you’re not sure just go ahead and hate me. That’s how it is. That’s how I live life- be up front and real.”

This feeling undoubtedly stemmed from an upbringing wrought with misunderstanding. Growing up in the Southern States, Lawal suffered through the misconceptions associated with being African with a parent who kept native traditions alive.

“I was born in Tennessee, my Mom was going to school there and then we moved to Richmond, Kentucky she was going to nursing school. From there we moved to Oklahoma and stayed with my Aunt for a little bit and then from there we moved to Texas. It was tough because my Mom is from Nigeria, a single black woman, Muslim at the time and people looked at us like we were crazy. My name is Muhammad, my brother’s name is Abdullah my sister’s name is Amina so they saw us and they say y’all are a little different why do you have those names? I had to explain to them we were Muslim but I never practiced. I was born into the religion but my Mommy and my Daddy at the time, when they were together, they practiced but it was a little different man.”

Solace came in the form of wrestling, but it didn’t start that way. After pursuing sports like football, Lawal took the backdoor onto the wrestling mat and began a journey that changed his life.

A journey for the man who would be King.

Read Driven- King Mo, Part 2 here.