Bellator light heavyweight Muhammed Lawal considers it fun to research fighters on BoxRec and Wikipedia in his spare time. He's still a student of the game as much as he is a fighter.
Recently, "King Mo" was contemplating the best all-around combatant, as a fight obsessive might do. And he talked to others about it, in the same way that others like him would.
After a short fact-finding mission, Lawal believes the reportedly retired Semmy Schilt deserves that recognition.
Of course, the idea didn't come from nowhere. One of Schilt's trainer for the famed Golden Glory team asked him to consider what many observers would call an unlikely candidate, as the 6-foot-11 giant never won a title in either the UFC or PRIDE.
Lawal, though, said Schilt's height isn't the only thing that puts him head and shoulders above others.
"I'm just saying as far as versatility," Lawal told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio
). "You don't see many guys that can go ... and be versatile. He won by decision, submission and TKO as a mixed martial artist, and then went to K-1 dominating the greats as a kickboxer."
Indeed, Schilt's time in combat sports was marked by careers in MMA and kickboxing, where he earned his biggest accolades. He won the K-1 World Grand Prix on four occasions – tying the record of all-time great Ernesto Hoost – and beat some of the sport's biggest names.
As an MMA fighter, he was far more fallible, losing to top-ranked talent such as Josh Barnett, Fedor Emelianenko, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Sergei Kharitonov in his later career under the now-defunct PRIDE banner. But before that, he did manage to win the open-weight King of Pancrase title and defend it on two occasions.
In the UFC, he was a modest 1-1 with a TKO over Pete Williams and a submission loss to Barnett.
"He fought in the UFC; he was a good submission fighter," said Lawal (10-2 MMA, 2-1 BFC), who's next scheduled to meet Jacob Noe (12-2 MMA, 3-1 BFC) at Bellator 97 next week at Santa Ana Center in Albuquerque, N.M., in the finals of the Summer Series light-heavy tournament. The fight will air on the main card on Spike TV.
"He fought in PRIDE, fought in GLORY. Name me anybody else that's done what he's done so far in all-around fighting? You could say (Alistair) Overeem, maybe, but at the same time, Semmy Schilt has been doing it for so long."
Overeem, who was a longtime teammate of Schilt's before leaving Golden Glory, was a champion in Strikeforce, DREAM and K-1, where he won the promotion's grand-prix in 2010.
However, Schilt's reign in kickboxing was far longer, and more illustrious.
From here on, it looks like Schilt will be doing most of his kicking in the gym rather than the square circle. A reported heart condition has put a halt to his career.
While some observers may debate his place in combat sports, Lawal, who's not uncomfortable going against the grain, believes he has the answer.