When friendship is more important than money; The Strikeforce light heavyweight dilemma and how to solve it

Can Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker (left) convince their light heavyweight champion King Mo (center) and Babalu to fight despite the fact they are friends and training partners?

During Showtime’s Wednesday night broadcast of  “Strikeforce: Los Angeles“, commentator Mauro Ranallo made the statement that the winner of the “Sobral vs. Lawler” main event fight would be awarded a light heavyweight title shot against current champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal.

Babalu went on to win a very tough unanimous decision over Lawler, and during his post-fight interview inside the cage, Ranallo asked him how he felt about a title shot against King Mo. Babalu said he would not fight King Mo, but instead, he called out MMA legend and recent Strikeforce addition Dan Henderson. Babalu lost to Henderson many years ago and said he would like to avenge that loss.

Later that night at the “Strikeforce: Los Angeles” post-fight press conference, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker was questioned about what is next for the light heavyweight contender Babulu, especially considering his seeming unwillingness to fight King Mo for the title.

Coker said,

“We talked about Babalu fighting maybe for the championship should he beat Robbie Lawler tonight. That is something we’re going to sit down with Richard [his manager] and Babalu to talk about because I think this was a great fight, good strategy, good technical skill. He fought a smart fight. So we’ll sit down and have that conversation. I know that they’re friends, but sometimes friends in this business, they have to get it on, but that’s something we’ll have to sit down and talk to him.”

Sherdog.com reporter Loretta Hunt then told Coker that they had interviewed Babalu after the fight and he was “adamant that he will not fight King Mo.”

Coker replied,

“Yeah, you know what, we’ll have that conversation. And  I’m sure after tonight after fighting Robbie he probably doesn’t want to fight anybody, so… he’s been through a rough night.”

This sentiment from Babalu confirms what King Mo told ProMMAnow.com in an interview we had with him on the June 6 episode of The Cageside Beat (27:15 mark), the official radio show of PRO MMA NOW (www.prommanow.com). We had heard a few weeks ago that Babalu did not want to fight King Mo because they were friends, so we asked King Mo how he felt.

Question: Babalu had said recently that he would not fight you because you guys are friends. Do you feel the same way?

King Mo: Yeah, we train together. I trained with Babalu a day-and-a-half ago, we train together man. I help Babalu train. I trained with him for Mike Whitehead. I trained with him for his last few fights. That’s my boy. Babalu helped me train for Mike Whitehead, helped me train for Mousasi, that’s my boy. If I were to fight him, it wouldn’t help us at all because you know, we both couldn’t train with each other so we both couldn’t help each other out. And on top of that, when the fight is over with, what goes off from there? It’s not worth it, it’s not worth it.

Different fighters have different viewpoints on the subject of training partners and friends fighting each other. If you have a close friendship with someone like King Mo and Babalu share, it does present a certain dilemma for the organization, but there are things more important than money and competition.

It might be different if the fighters were making a few million dollars to beat each other up. Unfortunately, those days are just not here yet for the sport, and until fighters are making big big money, asking them to fight and hurt someone that has been there for them and helped them get to where they are, well… that may be a bigger fight than the one the organization is trying to make in the first place.

The other problem is that Strikeforce’s light heavyweight roster is so limited. Frankly, other than Sobral, there is no other clear cut deserving contender for the light heavyweight title. So what to do? Give Lawler a shot anyway? That does not make much sense. They just signed light heavyweight Ovince St. Preux, but he’s going to be starting out on their Challengers Series, and he’s not ready for a title shot yet.

Fortunately, King Mo can and is willing to also fight at heavyweight. Strikeforce’s best bet would be to let him fight a big name at heavyweight and in the mean time find and build up a legitimate 205 lb. contender. Any ideas on potential 205 lb. prospects for Mo?

Leave a Comment