NEW YORK – Of all the fights going on at Bellator 180 and Bellator NYC on Saturday night, perhaps none are more intriguing that Lorenz Larkin’s promotional debut against current welterweight champion Douglas Lima. Larkin, one of the prized free agents coming over after back-to-back victories over Jorge Masvidal and Neil Magny in the UFC, likes to knock people out. Lima, who is coming off of back-to-back wins over Paul Daley and Andrey Koreshkov, likes to knocked people out, too.
The added intrigue is that Lima, in his 13th Bellator fight, is facing a “name” fighter on a pay-per-view at Madison Square Garden. In other words, this is a fight that raises Lima’s profile. And should he flatten Larkin like he did Koreshkov in Tel Aviv, maybe 13 is his lucky number to get some exposure.
If there’s one person out there who knows that’s what’s on Lima’s mind, it’s Larkin himself.
“Oh yeah, I’m one of the higher guys up in the rank that came over from the other promotion, so for sure,” Larkin told MMA Fighting after the press conference. “He doesn’t really get that recognition, but he’s good. He’s really good. I think this is what he needs. He needs a name to fight against, not just one of the guys from Bellator, but somebody with some oomph behind them. This is his shot.”
The 30-year old Larkin was all smiles at the Viacom headquarters in Manhattan on Thursday, said he was soaking in the limelight that he felt he never truly received while fighting in the UFC. His likeness was on the promotional posters, and he was sitting on a dais with Fedor Emelianenko, Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva. People were asking him about not only Lima, but the man waiting in the wings — Rory MacDonald — who is slated to face the winner of Saturday’s bout.
Larkin said he was enjoying the Bellator experience, mainly because his old Strikeforce boss Scott Coker and other Bellator officials are accessible.
“It’s a complete 180,” he said. “It’s just so easy. It’s easy to just, whatever’s on my mind I can talk about. These are things that I expressed during free agency, but it was never anything written out. But it’s just showing me that it’s the right decision. It’s probably the most marketing I’ve ever got. It’s crazy to go from that to being in limbo to this.”
Larkin actually used the word “refreshing” to describe his new situation. “I never dealt with Dana or anything like that businesswise,” he said. “If I’d seen him we’d share a couple of words and talk, so that was never a problem. But as far as business, it never worked like that.
“With Scott it was really easy. We worked out the deal, it was me and him on the phone that sealed it. It’s refreshing, just to have the head guy talk to you and work on the whole deal with you and talk about what you need and what you’re looking for, as well as what they’re looking for.”
As for his fight with Lima, Larkin said he’s relishing the chance to make his presence felt in a big way when he kicks off the main card from the Garden. The thing he likes more than anything is the stylistic match-up, especially when he considers himself a complex fighter to figure out.
“As long as I fight the way I’m supposed to fight, there’s not too many ways for him to beat me,” he said. “I’ve seen [Lima’s] style before, but he hasn’t fought anybody like me. Styles make fights, and he hasn’t fought a guy that’s similar to me. He’s fought guys that are pretty straight up or a wrestler or whatever, but as far as guys like me, he hasn’t fought anybody like me for sure. I’ve fought guys like him. It’s not hard for me to find training partners in preparation for guys like him.
“It’s this is not me talking shit, it’s just the way he fights. He’s had success at it, but he can’t go out and find somebody that’s going to mimic me, because I don’t even know half the shit I’m going to do.”
However it plays out, Larkin said he felt appreciated in his new gig with Bellator, and he has no regrets. Especially because he is getting the push from the marketing side of things.
“I feel there is where I should be, and this just reaffirms to me what they look at me as,” he said. “And what value they know I bring to the company. It’s just confirmation of the high regards they hold me in.”