Long before Daniel Cormier and "King" Mo Lawal were aspiring mixed martial artists, the pair of future champions were already friends after both attending Oklahoma State as part of the wrestling program.
Cormier and Lawal remained friends after college, and in 2009 while both were learning the craft of fighting they decided to form a new bond called ‘Team Thirsty’. It was a play on an old joke Cormier and Lawal had with some other friends from the wrestling community years earlier, and the pair remained close through training camps and while both competed in separate organizations as well.
Recently, Lawal has picked up his training and moved to Las Vegas where he started to work with UFC heavyweight Roy Nelson under the tutelage of boxing coach Jeff Mayweather. Lawal and Nelson also became fast friends, and have been in each other’s corners for fights in the past year.
Lawal ran into a problem, however, when the UFC announced that it was pitting Cormier against Nelson in a fight scheduled for this weekend in Houston as part of UFC 166. According to Nelson, because of the conflict of interest, Lawal bowed out of his training camp out of respect to both him and his old friend Daniel Cormier.
"King Mo, we see each other it’s just to not put him in a weird position with Daniel (Cormier). So that’s about it. Me and Mo are still tight, it’s just one of those things I’m not going to put my friends in a bad situation," Nelson told FOX Sports on Thursday.
"We just didn’t train together. We’d see each other at the Mayweather gym, I see him around, it’s not that hard in Vegas, it’s small."
Lawal is also preparing for a big fight of his own when he battles Emaneul Newton for the interim Bellator light heavyweight title at their pay-per-view coming up on Nov 2 from Long Beach, Calif.
Nelson insists there are no hard feelings towards Lawal for not working with him this camp, and he has every intention of being in his corner for his fight in November regardless of the outcome of UFC 166 and his bout with Cormier.
"I’ll probably be in his corner or hopefully his next fight with Emanuel (Newton)," Nelson said.
Nelson’s entire camp had to change for this fight because Mayweather also fell ill early on and was unable to lead the training sessions for the former Ultimate Fighter winner. Nelson played down any effects on his performance, however, saying that he just had to reboot like a computer and add some new hardware to get ready for UFC 166 and his bout with Cormier.