It’s a new era for Bellator, and Douglas Lima is anxious to enter the cage as the welterweight champion.
The Brazilian striker, who won the vacant 170-pound title with a second-round victory over Rick Hawn in April, told MMAFighting.com he plans to return in action in October against the winner of Andrey Koreshkov vs. Adam McDonough tournament final, set to headline the Bellator 122 card on July 25.
"My next opponent will be the winner of this fight, and I think it’s going to be a good fight," Lima said. "Both fighter are knocking people out, so I expect an explosive fight between them."
"I believe the Russian is the favorite," he added. "He’s younger and has more experience, already won a tournament, so I think he has a better chance at winning. But Adam surprised a lot of people in his last fights, and I think he’s capable of winning if he takes (Koreshkov) down."
Lima is not medically cleared to train hard yet after undergoing left knee surgery in April, and he won’t rush his recovery.
"I don’t know (when I will fight) yet, but I want to be back in October," he said. "My knee is not completely healed and I won’t be back until I’m 100 percent. But I’m confident that I will be good to go by October. I’m looking forward to fight again."
"I was surprised," he said of Viacom’s decision to replace Rebney with Coker. "I thought it was all good between them, but maybe they decided to change because business wasn’t the way they expected.
"I have nothing bad to say about (Rebney). He treated me well and I have to thank him for everything he did to me and wish him good luck. I think (Rebney) deserves all the respect because he created a promotion and did a lot of shows, and that’s not easy."
One of the first changes Viacom and Coker implemented was "move away from the tournament structure to a more traditional format," and Lima likes the idea.
"I think (Coker) knows what he’s doing," the Brazilian said. "He’s good on what he does, so I think it’s going to be good for the promotion. As a matter of fact, I like it better without the tournaments because the champions can fight more often, we don’t have to wait that much for new opponents."
Coker had success when attempting to compete with the UFC in his final years with Strikeforce, and Bellator’s welterweight champion believes he can do it again with Bellator.
"Bellator has a lot of room to grow especially with Viacom, that doesn’t have any financial problems," he said. "I believe that Bellator will be bigger than Strikeforce was. It will be even better."