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‘Man, who’s this guy?’ Douglas Lima might be the most underrated champion in MMA

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Eddie Alvarez already has ownership of the nickname “The Underground King.” He won titles in four different smaller organizations and compiled a ridiculous résumé of exciting fights before eventually making his way to the UFC and winning the lightweight title in 2016.

Alvarez was once the fighter known only to the most ardent MMA fans and they revered him. With those days behind him — and a headline fight with Conor McGregor at Madison Square Garden under his belt — a new fighter has taken up the mantle as one of the best in the world while remaining largely unknown.

Douglas Lima’s nickname might be “The Phenom.” But he might as well be called “The Biggest Secret.”

“The hardcore MMA fans now, they know who I am,” Lima told MMA Fighting in a recent interview. “The general public, it’s like, ‘Man, who’s this guy?’ I’ve been fighting for like 10 years. I’ve delivered some nasty KOs in the past years and still people don’t recognize it. It’ll take a KO to the right king to show people where I’m at, put me over there on the top where I belong.”

Lima, 29, is the Bellator welterweight champion, winning the title on two different occasions. He’s won eight of his last nine fights and six of those victories have come via vicious knockout. Lima knocked out then-champion Andrey Koreshkov in November 2016 to regain the belt, avenging a previous loss to Koreshkov. The Brazilian’s only other loss in Bellator came against Ben Askren in 2012.

There is little doubt that Lima (29-6) is one of the very best welterweight fighters in the world. He’s also must-watch, a knockout waiting to happen with some of the best kicks this side of Edson Barboza and a wicked left hook. He just doesn’t have the letters “UFC” next to his name.

Luckily for Lima, he’ll get a chance to prove himself without a shadow of a doubt at Bellator 192 on Jan. 20 here in Los Angeles when he defends his championship against Rory MacDonald, the former UFC title challenger.

At Bellator NYC in June, Lima defeated another UFC veteran, Lorenz Larkin, by unanimous decision. It wasn’t the kind of exciting, highlight-reel victory Lima wanted. But he’s hoping to make amends against MacDonald. Lima said he won’t put too much pressure on himself against MacDonald to produce an exciting fight — that’s when good things usually happen.

“I’m just not gonna let that get to me this time,” Lima said. “I’m looking at this guy like he’s just any other. I just go over there, perform, let everything go and just make it a great fight. Because I didn’t like the last one.”

Would a win over MacDonald launch Lima into the consciousness of the more casual MMA fans or fans who only watch the UFC? Truthfully, he’s not sure.

There is no exact formula to becoming a draw. If it were easy, the UFC would put on a million-buy pay-per-view card every month. Lima is not much of a talker, admittedly. He’s hoping to get there through his body of work in the cage — through KOs.

“I have no idea why,” Lima said of not being well known. “Most of my fights are exciting. For example, that KO of Ben Saunders — there’s no other knockout like that. Not giving myself too much credit, I hope not. Sorry if I am. But man, the whole world should have seen that. I come to deliver. I come to finish people. I’ve got the fan-friendly style, so I don’t know what else I need to do. A little bit frustrating, you know? I put a lot of work in.

“End of the day, I’m the champion, I have the belt. Sooner or later people are gonna realize that I’m here for real, that i can finish all the top guys. Keep bringing them and I’m gonna take them all out. If that’s the way it needs to be, I’m fine with it.”

Bellator does shoulder some of the blame. Perhaps the promotion could be promoting him better ahead of this big fight with MacDonald. Last week, Bellator moved up a Bellator heavyweight tournament fight between two huge personalities in Chael Sonnen and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson to the main event of Bellator 192, over Lima vs. MacDonald.

On the microphone, Lima understands he doesn’t come close to those two former UFC stars.

“I don’t know what to do, because I’m not gonna change my personality,” Lima said. “I’m not gonna start saying stuff. I just can’t do it. I’m not a talker and I’ve never been. I just like to stay humble, because at the end of the day you’re fighting somebody. You talk too much, that thing comes back at you hard. I don’t want to be that guy.

“I’ll try as best as I can, but the main thing for me is I want to deliver. I want to deliver the good fights, the knockouts, the excitement. What people want to see. I’ll work on it. I’ll work on my speaking, my talking. I’m not a good talker, but I’ll try to work on that, too, and see if it helps. As of right now, I’m just concentrating on knocking people’s head off. Let’s see if that helps.”

The main thing Lima wants to do is keep winning. To him, that’s the one thing he can control the most, working hard in the gym, honing his skills and showcasing them inside the cage.

Perhaps another thing he can work on is a hook, a gimmick. Something that will draw fans to him, something catchy. Lima thinks he has an idea on what that could be.

“‘UFC Killer,’ I’ll take that,” Lima said. “One is already down, the second one is about to happen in January. Who’s the next? Make the line, I’m here.”

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