The titleholder is happy to welcome him to the company.
"I’m not surprised they gave him the title shot because he’s coming off two good wins, beat two-top 10 fighters, tough opponents,” Lima told MMA Fighting. "I’m happy to be fighting him. I’m glad Bellator booked this fight, especially on the New York card. I’m happy with this match-up."
In fact, Lima has no idea why the UFC is letting talented fighters like Larkin go away in the first place.
"I don’t understand why they let guys like Lorenz and (Ryan) Bader go,” Lima said. "Go figure. But that’s better for us. A new challenge. Many people say UFC fighters are better, and this is a chance to prove we can compete with anyone."
Defending his belt is always the main priority in his fights, but Lima sees the opportunity of beating a UFC veteran in his prime as a chance to solid himself among the best welterweights in the world.
"That's a good motivation because now I can prove them that I can beat anyone,” Lima said. "When he signed, when Rory (MacDonald) signed… I wanted to fight Rory, but he said he would only be ready in July, and then he signed to fight (Paul) Daley, so that’s it. But I want to fight them both. If everything goes right, I’ll fight Rory later this year, too. I want to compete with the best, and they are ranked over me, so I want to fight them.”
"It makes more sense to fight Larkin now because Larkin is coming off two good wins, and his last loss was a close split decision, so that’s good for us,” he continued. "I already fought Daley, so I’m cheering for Rory to win [laughs]. It will be better to fight him than fighting Daley again.”
Lima finished eight of his 10 Bellator wins by knockout, while Larkin stopped three of five of his opponents in his victories under the UFC banner. With that stoppage rate, the Brazilian expects an explosive night at Madison Square Garden.
"I think we match up well style wise,” Lima said. "Our styles are similar. He’s more of a striker and that favors me. I don’t know, I like to fight guys like that, who really come to fight, and I think this is going to be an exciting fight. We will steal the show in this card, despite the other great names in it. I think this is the best match-up Bellator could have put in this card.
"I’ll try to finish him the way I can. I’ll try to knock him out, but if we go to the ground I’ll try to submit him. I want to finish him to show what I’m capable of doing."