Lorenz Larkin found himself at a career crossroads at the tail end of 2016. He was on a two-fight winning streak in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and had won four of his past five bouts. However, upon completion of his contract, he came to a standstill in negotiations, prompting “The Monsoon” to look for employment elsewhere. He found it, as Bellator MMA, the UFC’s chief rival, scooped up the Millennia MMA rep and added him to his growing 170-pound weight class.
Larkin will make his promotional debut at Bellator 180 on Saturday, when he challenges Douglas Lima for the welterweight championship at Madison Square Garden in New York. In this exclusive interview with Sherdog.com, the 30-year-old Riverside, California, native discusses his new surroundings, his upcoming opponent and the opportunity to fight inside the most famous arena on earth:
Sherdog.com: What are your thoughts on Lima and what he brings to the table? Larkin: He’s been the champ for a while now, even though there was a period of time where he lost his belt, but I think I respect a fighter more when he is able to win a title, lose it and then come back stronger and regain it. That’s what he’s been able to do, and I have the most respect for him. I mean, he’s a great fighter, but it’s my time to be champion now. He’s had his time, but this is just not going to be his time anymore.
Sherdog.com: What are the biggest threats he poses to you? Larkin: You know, it’s hard to say because I’ve been fortunate enough to see many different styles of fighters in my career. I’ve seen his style before -- I’ve fought against guys like him -- so with this fight, I’m not like, ‘Oh s---, I’ve never seen a fighter like this.’ I will have to adapt a little when the fight is happening, of course, but there’s nothing that he does that really threatens me. He’s not super unorthodox or super slick where I’ll have to constantly adapt to what he’s doing over and over. He’s just a powerhouse that does jiu jitsu. He’s got great power, but I’ve fought guys with great power before, and this fight is at welterweight. I fought as a heavyweight in the amateurs and started my pro career at 205 [pounds], so I’ve fought guys with a lot of power and strength.
Sherdog.com: What weaknesses do you see in Lima’s game? Larkin: I feel like his biggest weakness is going to be me. Just skimming through his fights, he hasn’t fought a guy like me before. That’s what it really boils down to, that I can train for a guy like him 24-7 because of what he does, but can he do the same about me? Is he really going to be able to adjust to my style? I know I can adjust to his.
Sherdog.com: What does it mean to you to be in one of the featured slots on one of the biggest events Bellator has ever put together? Larkin: It means everything to me. This whole story is amazing, and when my career comes to a close, this is going to be one of those terrific stories that I can tell people about where I was a couple months ago to where I didn’t know where I’d be fighting and then I’m in the biggest Bellator card in history in a world title fight. I always knew what I was capable of and I always thought I was among the best in my division. Not too long ago, I didn’t know what was going to happen with me. I went from being with someone who didn’t really seem to want to promote my fights or market me or give me the good fights, and then I became a part of a Cinderella story. I went from that to fighting in one of the biggest cards in MMA history in the greatest venue in the world for a world title. This shows me what my real value is, and it gives me more confidence that Bellator believes in me and is backing me.
Sherdog.com: What does fighting at Madison Square Garden add to this opportunity for you? Larkin: It says a lot. As far as MMA goes, I’m only one of 30 fighters who [will] have fought there in this sport. I’m actually one of the first people in MMA to ever fight there, aside from that first UFC card there they had last year. It speaks volumes about me that I can actually say that I fought at the Garden.
Sherdog.com: Can you describe your emotions heading into your first major world title fight? Larkin: It’s weird, but I don’t really feel any pressure going into this. I’m “the UFC fighter” coming in to try and take Lima’s belt. There’s no pressure on me because I don’t have the belt; he does. He has to try and defend his title, so he has all this added pressure because he’s fighting me, the UFC guy. People always say that the UFC has all the best fighters in the world, which is bulls---, but it adds pressure onto him.
Sherdog.com: Some other UFC veterans did not fare as well as they had hoped in their Bellator debuts. Why will it be different for you? Larkin: Well, where did Benson Henderson fight, at 170? He should have stayed in his damned weight class. Seriously, though, I’ve been fighting at 170 for a long time and have taken on some of the best there is. I think the only thing I’ll have to get used to is the canvas might be a little different. It’s still a cage, there are still cameras, still fans, still hand wraps. It’s all the same. I might be a little more comfortable with the outfit I’ll be wearing, though, because I was able to pick it out.
Sherdog.com: What else does Bellator have to do in order to even the playing field with the UFC? Larkin: When I look at Bellator, I’m pumped to be with them at this time right now. They have so much planned for the future. If I was in Bellator a year ago, I would have never said that they’d be in Madison Square Garden on pay-per-view -- no way -- but here we are. Bellator has all the tools and the company is right on the cusp of it. If they keep putting on these huge events and delivering amazing fights, they will do it. They are right there on the verge of doing it.
Sherdog.com: If you were scripting the fight with Lima, how would it unfold? Larkin: In a perfect setting, I get a knockout in the first minute of the first round so I can rush back to the dressing room so I can order a pizza.