Being a professional athlete is in many ways a gamble on the future. You have to hope you're good enough long before you find out the limits of your abilities. If you are talented enough to make it to your sport's major leagues, you spend plenty of time wondering about what's next. Whether it's your next game or next fight or next day of practice or training, there is excitement about potential and fear of what could go wrong.
Lorenz Larkin thought he knew what was next. He was supposed to have the opportunity of his career in a Strikeforce middleweight title fight against champion Luke Rockhold. Instead, the rug was pulled out from him twice after an injury forced Rockhold out of two proposed dates.
The champion's version of events is that a wrist problem simply didn't heal in time to make the Jan. 12 date. But Larkin isn't quite so sure. With Strikeforce likely to fold after January's Strikeforce: Champions event, he believes that Rockhold never intended to fight him, instead opting to move ahead into the UFC without having to risk his belt. It's a serious allegation, essentially accusing Rockhold of either lying or cowardice.
"Strikeforce or the UFC is not going to advertise a fight that isn't signed," he told MMA Fighting. "They wouldn't waste the time or the money. For him to say he never signed anything or never agreed to the bout, it doesn't make any sense."
Larkin said that he personally signed a bout agreement to face Rockhold in the first days of November, just before Strikeforce confirmed the matchup. That's why it took him by surprise when he not only heard that Rockhold was out, but also when he heard the champion say he had never even begun training for the fight or signed for it. Those last bits of information simply sounded too fishy, he said.
"I just think he’s playing the safe card," he said. "Why take a potential fight where you can get your belt taken from you right before you get to the UFC? On one hand, I understand if he’s trying to play that game. But I'd rather he just didn't take the fight at all."
The fight's cancellation essentially ended a four-month training camp for Larkin, who began to prepare for the bout just after his July win over Robbie Lawler, upon hearing whispers he'd fight for the belt.
It also left Larkin feeling largely unfulfilled. Here he'd spent parts of two camps preparing for one guy for a fight that never materialized. In Larkin's mind, the fight was going to be great, a proper sendoff for Strikeforce in the last fight of its history. Perhaps even something to rival the Anthony Pettis vs. Benson Henderson thriller that sent the WEC to a triumphant end before its absorption by the UFC. A "chin-down, dig-your-toes-into-the-mat" kind of fight, he called it.
"I was going to put on a show," he said."I wanted this fight to be remembered. If it was the end, I wanted Strikeforce to go out with a bang."
That's a role he wanted as much as fighting for the belt, but now if Larkin-Rockhold happens, it will probably be in the UFC. On Monday's edition of The MMA Hour, Rockhold -- angered by Larkin's tweets on the mess -- said that he'd still like the fight, even if it was in the octagon, calling the match-up "easy money."
While Larkin took umbrage at Rockhold's characterization of the pairing, he didn't seem nearly as enthused about the possibility of the fight taking place in the future, voicing a worry that history would again repeat itself with another injury and fight cancellation.
"I'd rather fight someone who I know is going to go through a full camp and come and show up to fight me," he said. "He can think it's easy money all he wants. He can talk all the mess he wants because he knows we're not fighting. He can be tough all he wants, but I was going to be there on Jan. 12, and he's the one who's not going to be there to fight me."
To date, Larkin has not heard if he'll be asked to stay on the show, but he's not really sure what he wants to do next anyway. Part of him wants to get in and fight at the next available opportunity, even if it's not for a belt. The other part of him says that since the title match is off the table, it will be smart to bypass the January Strikeforce show and wait for his invitation to the UFC. Among the names he says he'd like to tangle with in the big show are Wanderlei Silva and Tim Boetsch.
Ultimately, he feels as though he has two good options. After all, when he was a young fighter coming up, he was always focused on ending up with either Strikeforce or the UFC. Now he might be wanted by both. That's what he tries to remind himself as this situation plays out.
While he waits, he's staying in training, passing the time until the call comes to send him back into action. And whether it's Rockhold, Silva, Boetsch, or another name entirely, Larkin promises to deliver the same thing he would have brought on Jan. 12.
"Even in Strikeforce, I haven't been worried about a belt until later on," he said. "I'm just worried about putting on exciting fights. That’s what I've got to get back to. I know fans like that, and that’s what I like doing. So all in all, I’m more concerned about putting on exciting fights. That's it."