This past weekend, Liam McGeary upset the odds and knocked out Muhammed ‘King Mo’ Lawal at Bellator 213 in his new hometown of Honolulu, Hawaii. Many thought that the former NCAA Division I wrestler would be able to exploit the takedown defense of McGeary, as Phil Davis and Linton Vassell were able to do in previous contests, but McGeary had other plans. The Englishman used carefully placed strikes within the clinch and against the cage to fend off King Mo’s takedown attempts and when he was taken down, managed to work back to his feet before Mo could establish dominant position. At one point in the second round, McGeary appeared to have Mo badly hurt when he drove a series of elbows into the side of Mo’s face when defending another takedown attempt. This was an area of his game that he knew he needed to improve if he wanted to get back to competing among the top contenders in the Bellator Light Heavyweight division.
‘I improved my takedown defense by working on it constantly. Same as anything you want to get better at – practise and more practise,’ said McGeary. He also attributes a lot of his improvements to working with a new team at Huntington Beach in California. Despite recently moving to live in Hawaii, that is where the majority of his training takes place. He gives lots of credit to his new coaches at Ultimate Training Centre, Paul Herrera and Tiki Ghosn, who he believes are two of the best in the business.
McGeary didn’t have everything his own way during the fight though. King Mo targeted the legs that Vadim Nemkov hurt badly in McGeary’s last fight and visible damage was on display once McGeary had got the win. McGeary isn’t worried about any lasting injury from the repeated damage his shin is taking though. ‘My shin is bruised up but it’s doing fine. My leg is back to its normal size now so that’s good!’ he said. McGeary places this victory right up there alongside his other wins against Emmanuel Newton and Tito Ortiz in terms of the calibre of opponents he’s beaten.
The fight game isn’t all physical though and it appears that the mental side and his change of mindset may have taken his game to the next level, even more so than the different training conditions. He has recently become a father which made him realise that there is more to life than just MMA. His life was dominated by fighting until recently, but now McGeary knows that there are more important things in life which has stopped him from overthinking his fight preparations and helped him take a more relaxed attitude to his career. McGeary’s move from living in New York to Hawaii has also helped with his happiness outside of the cage. ‘I don’t have the everyday stresses that New York brings. Island life is my kind of life – always has been,’ said McGeary. ‘Put me on the beach or in the country and I’m a happy man.’
McGeary plans to get back into the Bellator cage very soon, possibly as soon as early next year, but does he have any opponents in mind? ‘I don’t know man, we will have to sit down with Bellator and see where we move forward to. There’s only a few guys at the top level now so we are just going to have to see,’ said McGeary. He then sent out a warning to the rest of the division. ‘I’m throwing hands at whoever gets in my way – that’s a promise!’ With more than half of his fight wins coming by knockout, potential opponents will need to stay alert on the feet if they want to avoid a similar fate to King Mo.
When it comes to his goals for 2019, it is clear what is at the forefront of McGeary’s mind. ‘Family goals really mate is all I’m interested in now. I want to be the best dad that I can be.’ He also made it clear that he aims to continue training and fighting well so that he can do his job to the best of his ability. The change of priorities in his life is clear to hear and appears to have given him a completely new outlook on his career. ‘There’s no cap on greatness mate, just keep doing more!’