Lorenz Larkin became one of the latest UFC contenders to make the leap to Bellator this month when he inked a deal to join the promotion’s ever-improving welterweight division. Larkin’s move was immediately followed by similar moves from top-five UFC light heavyweight Ryan Bader and longtime bantamweight contender Michael McDonald, and added to the recent spending spree that has landed Bellator a handful of compelling free agents over the past year, from Rory MacDonald and Phil Davis, to Benson Henderson and Chael Sonnen.
After spending seven months in contractual limbo, Larkin said this week on The MMA Hour that he was happy to simply receive some clarity regarding his fighting future, and he hoped to get back into action as quickly as possible. But in the aftermath of his Bellator announcement being made official, one thing surprised Larkin that he didn’t expect: grumbling from fans confident he was making a mistake by leaving the UFC.
“I guess the only thing that I’ve kinda been disappointed with in this whole experience, some — I’m not going to say all of them, because there’s a lot of people who support my decision — but I feel like a lot of the MMA fans are really disappointing in this thing, that they’re just big UFC people,” said Larkin, who faces welterweight champion Douglas Lima at his Bellator 180 debut. “And I always took pride in saying that MMA fans are really knowledgeable about this sport. They’re really knowledgeable about what’s going on in this sport, more than I feel like (fans are) with boxing and things like that.
“I just get this whole, like, ‘why would you go to Bellator?’ And, ‘you’re over, it’s just a B-league,’ and all this other type of sh*t. And I’m just like, this is good for the sport, man. There can’t be one (option for fighters). I’m not saying it just because I left. I’ve watched Bellator before, even when I was in the UFC. I’ve watched all these other leagues when I was in the UFC, so it’s not like now I’ve left them and now I’m just like this. I’ve felt like this the whole time. It can’t be like that, especially being a fighter.
“You can’t have one superpower and no other organizations on the come-up,” Larkin continued. “It’s good for the sport. All these guys always talk about, ‘this fighter made five-and-five for a fight, this is bullsh*t.’ Well, the whole reason why that’s bullsh*t is because that’s one organization being the superpower. So it’s like these guys complain about one thing, and then they don’t want another thing.”
Larkin, 30, isn’t the first fighter to echo such sentiments. Angst over the UFC’s stranglehold on the market has existed for years, as well as the public’s general perception that fighters in the UFC are superior to their counterparts elsewhere. Similar arguments were made back in the day regarding the WEC, Strikeforce, and other non-UFC promotions, and Larkin couldn’t help but point out how wrong those arguments were, considering that many of the WEC’s and Strikeforce’s best fighters went on to become major successes in the UFC.
“They say ‘minor league’ and all this other sh*t, but they said the same thing about Strikeforce,” Larkin said. “Luke Rockhold was a champion, Tyron Woodley is a champion, (Daniel) Cormier, Robbie Lawler, Fabricio (Werdum). I don’t like Ronda (Rousey), but she came from Strikeforce. So it’s like, everybody has to know, this is a good change in the sport. All this free agency stuff and these things, this is like the evolution of MMA. This is like a turning point, that other organizations are starting to fight for fighters, and everybody has to understand that’s a good thing for the sport as a whole.”
In Larkin’s case, the Riverside native was a top-10 ranked fighter in the UFC before he switched over to Bellator’s side of the game. In his 2016 campaign alone, Larkin defeated both Jorge Masvidal and Neil Magny, two men who are currently ranked No. 5 and No. 6 in the UFC’s welterweight division, respectively. That momentum gave Larkin good enough leverage to secure a better deal on the open market than he would have found if the UFC had been his only option.
That’s why Larkin can’t help but be surprised when he reads and hears from fans who indicate that his Bellator move means that he is no longer a relevant factor at 170 pounds, especially when he considers the strength of a Bellator welterweight division that already includes MacDonald, Paul Daley, Michael Page, Andrey Koreshkov, and champion Douglas Lima, among others.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m getting a lot of people who are supporting me,” Larkin said. “A lot of people. It’s just, I see [the criticism] every so often, because I don’t really reply, but I am a lurker. I do just scroll (through) little posts and I’ll just read the comments. But it was just boggling my mind, man. I just felt like, all MMA fans should know that this is good for the sport. This is not a bad thing, that people are starting to test free agency and things like that.”