King Mo ousted by Zuffa
March 28, 2012
Tuesday was a bad day for “King” Mo Lawal as he was suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission 9 months and fined $39,000 for using Performance Enhancing Drugs. To compound the suspension, Lawal took to twitter to vent which lead to Zuffa cutting Lawal.
As you may recall, Lawal tested positive for PEDs after his last fight in Strikeforce in January. The hearing before the Nevada State Athletic took place on Tuesday and it didn’t go well. Lawal was fined a total of $39,000 and suspended 9 months by the NSAC. Also, his KO of Lorenz Larkin was ruled a No Contest.
MMA Fighting reports that Strikeforce’s Scott Coker stated that the release was based upon the “subsequent reaction” by Lawal. This is in reference to Lawal’s twitter rant after the hearing. The tweets railed against a female member of the NSAC questioning Lawal as she asked if he could read and if he spoke English. Lawal took offense and some of his tweets reflected his disdain. As a result, Zuffa notified Lawal’s management that the fighter had been let go.
With Lawal’s termination came the uproar as to the lack of symmetry in doling out punishments by Zuffa. But there is a code of conduct in fighters’ contracts.
MMA Junkie provides the section in a Zuffa fighter’s contract regarding code of conduct:
Section 9.1 of the Zuffa (or Forza, LLC for Strikeforce fighters) contract states:
“Fighter shall conduct himself in accordance with commonly accepted standards of decency, social conventions and morals, and Fighter will not commit any act or become involved in any situation or occurrence or make any statement which will reflect negatively upon or bring disrepute, contempt, scandal, ridicule, or disdain to Fighter, the Identity of Fighter or any of Fighter’s Affiliates, FORZA or any of its officers, managers, members, employees, or agents.
“Fighter’s conduct shall not be such as to shock, insult or offend the public or any organized group therein, or reflect unfavorably upon any current or proposed sponsor or such sponsor’s advertising agency, or any network or station over which a Bout is to be broadcast.”
The termination issue here is based on Lawal’s tweets, something that has gotten UFC fighters in trouble in the past. Recent memory will point us to Miguel Torres and his brief expulsion due to an off color tweet. Also, Torres was taken back into the good graces of Zuffa less than a month after he was terminated. But Forrest Griffin had a controversial tweet about rape and was not punished. Rashad Griffin made a topical, yet off-color remark about Phil Davis’ alma mater, Penn State in promoting their fight and was not punished either.
As for the reason for the tweets, it’s certainly understandable for Lawal to be upset for the line of questioning about whether he could read and/or speak English. As an attorney that’s actually been in situations like this, feelings are hurt and it’s unfortunate that this happens in the profession. After listening to the audio, it seems like Pat Lundvall was asking a line of questioning which would segue into further questioning. Definitely, she could have asked different questions to get to the same point. But, it appears that she may have been upset with the fact that Lawal did not actually fill out the questionnaire which she questioned Lawal about preceding the read and speak questions. Honestly, I’m not even sure if she realized that the questions were condescending. But that’s only speculation.
The termination gives cause to pause about whether there should be a need to inform Zuffa fighters about its twitter policy (maybe implement one if one does not exist). Zuffa could amend its code of conduct to specifically include social media use to spell it out to its fighters too. For a tool it wishes, and in fact awards, its fighters for using, there needs to be some ground rules. While it doesn’t want to restrict tweeting, fighters need to be smart about what they are tweeting. Lawal has been through a difficult time and the tweets reflect his frustration. But, he should have self-imposed a cooling period. Stay off of twitter for a day so your tweets don’t get you into trouble. It’s one of the reasons why the media is not let into locker rooms immediately after a football/basketball game. Players need to calm down lest they say something they regret.
In the end, Lawal may still have a chance to comeback to Zuffa. If he shows contrition for his tweets and accepts the suspension, Lawal still may land back in Strikeforce or even the UFC. One need only look to Miguel Torres. You could even point to Nate Marquardt as a fighter exiled by the company only to return.