Gegard Mousasi was gearing up for his Bellator debut against Alexander Shlemenko in 2017 when Douglas Lima, the company’s welterweight champion, showed up in the same gym in Germany.
“The Dreamcatcher” and “The Phenom,” who now prepare to face each other for the vacant middleweight championship at Bellator 243 on May 9, put the gloves on to spar for one or two rounds. Lima was visiting the country to train with KSW titleholder Roberto Soldic, while Mousasi prepared for his first bout since leaving the UFC.
Fighters usually don’t comment training sessions, but Lima has no problem discussing how—badly—he did that day.
“I was training with my friend Soldic in Germany, and Mousasi goes there to spar every Saturday,” Lima told MMA Fighting. “(Mousasi) invited me to spar, and I accepted. I was completely out of shape and got beat up by everybody in the gym [laughs]. But it was great, it was quite interesting. They welcomed me really well there.
“I think I did one or two rounds of sparring with (Mousasi). It was alright because he saw I was very tired. That was two weeks before his fight with Shlemenko, so he was in shape and I was dead, so he beat me up [laughs].
“I respect him a lot, that entire team is great. Nothing against him. It’s going to be a great fight and I’m going after the knockout the entire time.”
Things did not go his way that day, but Lima warns his opponent not to take that into consideration come fight night.
“If I were him I wouldn’t do that because this is a fight, you know?” Lima said. “He obviously took something from that, and so did I. I picked up a few things here and there. But it’s completely different now, I can guarantee you that. As we always say, training is different from fighting.”
Rafael Lovato Jr., who beat Mousasi to capture the 185-pound championship last June, relinquished the title due to ongoing medical condition. Lima was already looking to move up from welterweight when he was the champion and wishes him a speedy recovery, but sees Mousasi as a better match-up style-wise.
“The fight got even better now because Mousasi has a bigger name, has a history in MMA,” Lima said. “Everything this guy has done, the names he’s fought, the victories he has. I’m excited, man. I’m happy with this fight. It’s going to be awesome, a great challenge for me.
“It’s going to be more exciting because of his style. Rafael was getting better on the feet but he’s a grappler, and this style is better. Every fight is tough, but Mousasi and I are more exciting.”
Rory MacDonald was the last man to move up from 170 to attempt to claim a second belt, losing by TKO to Mousasi in 2018. Unlike the Canadian talent, Lima vows to “show up.”
“I don’t think the weight will play a big factor because I walk around 200 pounds,” Lima said. “The thing is, I have to show up and fight. I’m not even thinking about the weight, I’m focused on the fight. I think I’ll enjoy this division more because the weight cut will be easier.
“Rory himself said he didn’t show up to fight that time. I don’t know what happened. He always goes in and fights whoever, but he kind of froze against Mousasi. Maybe he felt the weight difference, the punching power, I don’t know. I don’t even watch that fight because it makes no difference. I know he moved up and things didn’t work out for him, but it will be different for me.”
“The Dreamcatcher” has only been knocked out once before in MMA, a second-round TKO he avenged 14 months later against Uriah Hall. Lima, who stopped the likes of Michael Page, Andrey Koreshkov and Ben Saunders throughout his 32-7 career, plans to add his name to that list in May.
“I’m always going for the knockout but whatever it takes, man, I want to win,” Lima said. “I always want the finish. This matchup right there, I know it will happen.”