Respect is a funny word.
Not so much that whenever the word respect is used, hilarity ensues, but more because while the definition of respect can be found in a dictionary, it seems to mean something different for just about everybody.
Lately, the word respect has been used a lot in the world of MMA, particularly whenever former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson talks about his love-hate relationship with the his current employer. He's said on numerous occasions that his fight at UFC on Fox 6 will be his last with them, and that has to do a lot with the lack of respect they've shown him and other fighters in the organization.
Jackson swears it's not about money so much as it has to do with treatment of the fighters. The funny thing about respect is Rampage may not be wrong, at least in his own mind.
Respect is something that's felt by each individual, and who are we to tell them that they have or have not been respected or should feel respected?
Fellow light heavyweight Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal understands Rampage's beef with the UFC, but it has nothing to do with his own disdain for the promotion. As a matter of fact, Lawal may have no quarrels with the UFC at all, but he knows that there's always more to a story than just what's on the surface and if Jackson feels disrespected then there has to be a reason why.
“It's like that with sports, period. All sports are sort of like that. Here's the thing, a lot of fans can say what they want, but they don't understand cause they're just watching from the outside. They don't really know what's going on in the inside. All they do is speculate on Twitter and think they heard this, and they go to message boards and they hear information from message boards, but stuff goes on that they can't comprehend,” Lawal told MMAWeekly Radio.
“If Rampage put it like that, he has a right to feel like that. Because obviously something must have happened to make him feel like that. I don't know cause I'm not in his shoes, but I can't tell him how to feel.”
It's the quirky nature of the word respect that fueled Rampage's comments when unleashing a recent tirade about the UFC. If he feels he's been disrespected in some manner or fashion, that comes down to his own personal opinion whether it's true or not.
In King Mo Lawal's case, he expressed similar emotion after his release was handed down from Strikeforce in 2012. His exit from the promotion was anything but quiet. Lawal didn't enjoy the way the higher ups at Zuffa (parent company to Strikeforce and the UFC) opted to let him go in such a public manner, and felt they took shots at him in a public forum.
With his new home at Bellator, where he debuts on Thursday night during the promotion's second show on Spike TV, Bellator 86, Lawal feels like he's found the respect he wanted and needed, and no one can say he didn't have a point because again it came down to personal feelings.
“I like working with them because they respect me. Granted, everybody's like, ‘you're the biggest profile fighter they have.' No, it's not true. It's just the fact that you don't see Bjorn (Rebney) bashing his fighters; Bjorn's been cool. He's like Scott Coker in my eyes. Scott Coker has always been cool. Who do you see Scott Coker bash?” asked Lawal.
“I just like the respect they give me and the fighters.”
Some would see this as a direct shot at UFC president Dana White, who has never held his tongue when asked for his opinion about a particular fighter, fight or situation that's going down. White is routinely revered for his candidness, where many other owners and league figureheads duck and dodge tough questions and respond with clichés and public relation approved rhetoric.
Whether the comments are aimed at White or not, Lawal is a happy man in his new home and welcomes a fighter the caliber of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, should he choose to jump ship and sign with Bellator.
“Hell yeah, if they want to pay him and show him respect and take care of him. Give him a pro wrestling deal too, yeah, throw him a little boxing in his contract, like mine. Hell yeah, Rampage can get his money,” said Lawal.
“Come fight where you feel like you're respected, where you feel comfortable. I just want all fighters that have been in the game for a while to get their money, feel happy and feel comfortable and feel respected.”
Ultimately the decision lies with Jackson where his future will take him, but Lawal, who at one time had a very infamous feud with Rampage that's now been squashed, says if he decides to make his home at Bellator, the door is already open and the welcome mat is rolled out.
“I don't care where he goes, but if he wants to come to Bellator, hey that's cool with me,” said Lawal. “He wants to fight at 205, let's do it. He wants to fight at heavyweight, hey go ahead and do it.”
For his part, Lawal's MMA career will pick up more than a year after his last trip to the cage when he steps into the Bellator fighting arena for the first time on Thursday night. It's been a long time coming, and Lawal is ready to dust of his crown and take back his throne.