Lorenz Larkin knows he belongs in consideration among the top welterweights in Bellator. But he wasn’t going to wait around for the chance to prove it.
When the eight-man bracket for the Bellator Welterweight World Grand Prix was announced in August, it featured a who’s who of the division’s best, including champion Rory MacDonald, former champions Douglas Lima and Andrey Koreshkov, and rising star Michael “Venom” Page. Larkin was slotted into an alternate bout, which seemed somewhat curious given that he was only two fights removed from battling Lima for the welterweight title.
However, Larkin told MMA Fighting that it was his decision to take an alternate slot as opposed to initially being part of the tournament proper. He last fought in January and has been eager to get back in the cage, so waiting until the end of the year to fight again was not ideal.
“The whole purpose why I’m an alternate is because it was my intention to be in the tournament, but I didn’t want to wait,” said Larkin. “I just had the layoff and I saw that to be in the tournament, I would have either fought in December or January. That was too long of a wait for me. I don’t like long layoffs. I said, ‘Forget the tournament,’ and the option was to be an alternate, so that was like the perfect situation for me.”
To put Larkin’s decision into perspective, the grand prix recently kicked off with a quarterfinal bout between Lima and Koreshkov on Sept. 29. The next quarterfinal bout, Ed Ruth vs. Neiman Gracie, is scheduled for Dec. 15.
The remaining opening round matchups, MacDonald vs. Jon Fitch and Page vs. Paul Daley, have yet to see a date announced. Not wanting to be limited by the tournament schedule, Larkin signed up for an alternate bout with Yaroslav Amosov instead, to at least leave himself some flexibility.
Larkin’s plans were almost foiled by a pair of opponent withdrawals as Amosov first bowed out with an unspecified injury, then his replacement Erick Silva also withdrew due to a rib injury. In both instances, Larkin is not convinced that his opponents are being completely honest about their situations.
“When I first heard about this guy, I looked him up, I looked at the record and it looked like a good record,” Larkin said of the unbeaten Amosov. “So then after we signed contracts, then my team starts digging and we pretty much figured out it was a padded record, you know what I mean? And he hasn’t fought nobody of high-level talent. My thing was, once I caught wind of what his record really was, I told my coaches we’ll see if this really happens. Let’s see if this fight doesn’t go through.
“And lo and behold, he pulled out like a month and three weeks before our fight. So that just told me that — what injury could you have? Did you tear your ACL? I hope it wasn’t a sprained ankle because anybody can get back normal after two weeks. I don’t know. But I just knew that it had to have been something like a management move because you’re going to allow your guy to fight me? His first time fighting somebody of higher talent?”
Of his fellow UFC export Silva, Larkin questioned whether the mercurial Brazilian really wanted to take him on or if Silva was hoping for a less challenging Bellator debut.
“With Silva, I just felt like he probably wanted an easy fight because the injury I heard he has is like multiple cartilage tears in his ribs, which I’ve never heard of,” said Larkin. “I’ve heard of guys getting a tear in the rib, I’ve had a tear in my rib, in my cartilage, but not multiple. Unless you got jumped or something. The only thing I can take from that is he wanted an easy fight coming into Bellator.
“But there ain’t no easy fights. There’s all monsters in the division. That’s why 170 is the most stacked division in Bellator, so you’re not going to get easy fights.”
Larkin (19-7, 1 NC) picked up his first Bellator win in January, taking a unanimous decision nod over veteran Fernando Gonzalez. He’s not sure why it’s taken so long for him to get another booking, but he’s just glad that he has an opponent locked in for Bellator 207, late-notice replacement Ion Pascu.
With a win over Pascu, Larkin will position himself to jump into the grand prix bracket or possibly be the first name called to take on an eliminated fighter. Though he’s expressed interest in a rematch with Daley, who defeated him by second-round knockout in September of last year, his main goal at the moment is to get on as many Bellator cards as he can.
“I don’t care, as long as they keep me fighting,” Larkin said, when asked if there was anyone in the grand prix he was particularly eager to match up with. “I feel like the only smart move would be to schedule me around the grand prix. Around these fights because if something was to happen, I’m already in camp getting ready for that day, so why not? That’s the only thing that makes sense to me, so it might be like my perfect situation.”
Bellator 207 takes place on Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.