When the bell sounded at the close of Bellator 192, the decision was read, and it was official that Douglas Lima had dropped his title to Rory MacDonald, the demand for an eventual rematch was loud and clear.
After all, Lima had battled MacDonald for five thrilling rounds, and though the decision was mostly free of controversy outside of MacDonald looking superficially worse, it was easy to imagine how another go-around between the two could be even more competitive and possibly end up in Lima’s favor. No one could argue that MacDonald and Lima were the cream of the Bellator welterweight crop, so why not run it back as soon as possible?
That first fight was 21 months ago. MacDonald and Lima did not get their immediate rematch. Instead, they were thrown into a Welterweight World Grand Prix featuring eight of Bellator’s best at 170 pounds. Their respective pedigrees placed them on opposite ends of the bracket. If they were to meet again, it would be in the finals.
Amazingly it was MacDonald, the defending champion, who wound up having the more treacherous path. In the opening round, veteran Jon Fitch pushed him to a majority draw, which meant MacDonald would advance in the tournament based only on the fact that he entered with a title around his waist. MacDonald then openly questioned how his faith conflicted with his fighting career, and for a moment, there was the fear that he would withdraw from the field.
On the other side, Lima took care of business. The two-time Bellator champion handily defeated rival Andrey Koreshkov to put a stamp on their trilogy, and then knocked off unbeaten in Michael Page with a spectacular KO combination.
And so after all that, MacDonald-Lima 2 was set. Lima couldn’t be more enthusiastic with how it played out.
“I definitely would be a little disappointed [if it wasn’t MacDonald in the finals] because that first fight was just so close, and he’s the one that took the belt away from me,” Lima told MMA Fighting. “I wouldn’t mind it, because it would still be for the title, I think the title is the main thing that I’m after here. But definitely the rematch makes it even better, because I thought I was going to get him right away, the first fight, that’s what I was wanting. I think at the finals of a tournament like this, it’s even better for sure. Made the fight even bigger.
“Now it’s two belts on the line, the tournament and the division, so it’s just a lot on the line and it feels good that it’s him. That’s just right. I said it at the beginning of the tournament before we started that both of us were gonna be in the finals, and I was going to take the belt from him in the finals and it’s here. I’m one fight away from making that happen, so it feels good.”
A Christian himself, Lima wasn’t as worried as others were when MacDonald began to ponder his place in MMA, chalking it up to “a phase he was going through.” He doesn’t expect MacDonald’s faith to have any negative effect on his performance when the two meet again on Saturday in the main event of Bellator 232 in Uncasville, Conn.
And just as he expects the best from MacDonald, Lima is expecting the best from himself as well, especially with the chance to capture Bellator gold a third time. Given the drama surrounding this rematch, he’s expecting that he and MacDonald will fight again should he avenge the defeat.
“For sure, if that’s what he wants, we can do it anytime,” Lima said. “We can do it four, five times, it doesn’t matter. It’s a big fight, it’s a good fight, it gets fans excited, it gets me excited because it’s a big fight. That’s what we have, the athletes we just want the biggest fights and that’s going to be a big fight no matter how many times it happens. I think after I beat him this time around, I think it will happen again.”
Lima believes a win over MacDonald and the beginning of a third title reign would cement him as a top-5 welterweight in the world, regardless of promotion, though he’s not fixated on the rankings. He’s also not worried about not having options beyond a third matchup with MacDonald as he expects new contenders to rise or for Bellator to bring in fresh challengers.
He also dreams of taking a fight in Japan with Bellator partner Rizin Fighting Federation, and possibly dabbling at 185 pounds. There, he could find himself matched up with former champion Gegard Mousasi, though it’s also possible that Mousasi come down to fight Lima, as he suggested at a recent media scrum.
A friend of Mousasi’s, Lima is taking the callout in stride even as he entertains the possibility.
“I actually went to his gym last year, I was in Holland—I was in Germany training and I went there for a bit—he actually mentioned it to me when I fought Koreshkov the third time, when I started the tournament and he fought Rory that same night,” Lima said. “He was like, ‘I don’t know, man, you look big, blah blah blah, I might drop down to 170, we’re the same size right now.’ He was also talking about how Rory doesn’t look small, they were about the same size, so I think that started right there when he saw how big we were as welterweights and then I think he believes he can make the weight.
“I hope it happens. Mousasi is a great fighter, he’s been around forever, the guy’s a killer. He’ll definitely make a great matchup at 170 or 185. Nothing but respect for him, this is not a callout or disrespect anything like that, but that would be an amazing fight for sure.”