NEW YORK – If anybody’s happy with the way free agency has deepened Bellator’s pool of contenders, it’s current welterweight champion Douglas Lima. The 29-year-old “Phenom” has 10 victories inside the Bellator cage — eight via TKO/KO — and a belt wrapped around his waist, yet he’s rarely discussed among the top welters in the world.
All of that could begin to change Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, when Bellator puts on its second-ever pay-per-view. The most critically acclaimed fight on the card belongs to Lima’s bout with promotional newcomer Lorenz Larkin, who is coming off of back-to-back wins over Jorge Masvidal and Neil Magny. Like Lima, he carries his hands very heavy to the cage.
It all amounts to a high-profile fight on a big stage for Lima, who welcomes all the new talent pouring into his division.
“I’m actually enjoying it, man,” he told MMA Fighting after the Bellator NYC press conference. “The division is getting more stacked by the minute and all these names coming in. I love it. That’s what I’ve always wanted, to fight tough guys, fight ranked guys and get my name out there a little more. I want to show the fans what I can do, because most of the time there wasn’t a lot of eyes on me.”
The Brazilian Lima last fought at Bellator 164, which took place last November in Tel Aviv, Israel. He avenged his only loss in the last five years against Andrey Koreshkov, scoring an emphatic third-round knockout. He has stood in against some notable strikers during the last few years, including Ben Saunders (twice) and Paul Daley, and he’s emerged on the winning side each time.
None have carried the import that a fight with Larkin does.
“I definitely feel it,” he said. “A win over Lorenz just means everything to me right now. He’s a big name coming off some wins, so I’m just looking forward to this fight. Get a good win, get a big win, then get Rory MacDonald next.”
MacDonald made his Bellator debut against Paul Daley in London last month, and looked great in the process. He finished Daley in the second round via submission. He will be cageside at Madison Square Garden for Lima’s fight with Larkin. Lima said he was impressed with MacDonald, and can foresee how everything is aligning to reflect back on him in a good way.
“I’ve followed his career as a welterweight, our weight class,” he said. “He’s a tough guy, man, been through some wars. I’m glad he looked good, and that’ll make the buzz even bigger when I fight him, so it’s good for me.”
Should Lima use his platform well, with more eyes on him than he’s ever had before, he has some words prepared for MacDonald.
“I’m looking for a massive KO, man,” he said. “Just a massive KO, and then Rory. Finish the year well with those two wins, that’s all I want right now. I’m going to call Rory in the ring after. I know he’ll be there watching this fight, so after this win I’m going to call him over there, do the square off, make it official right there.”
Asked if fighting at MSG had any charms for him, Lima said he’s sure it does — but until the man waiting to confront him there is vanquished, it’s just a space.
“I hasn’t really kicked in yet,” he said. “When we get to the fight, I think that’s when it will. Man, we’re at Madison Square Garden, a big show. But right now I’m just concentrating on the fight itself, and after the fight I’m sure it’ll kick in.”