Lorenz Larkin’s journey just to fight at Bellator 207 on Oct. 12 has been a headache, to say the least. After receiving a second replacement opponent in less then a month, the fighter is understandably frustrated.
“I’m always getting the sh*tty end of the stick,” Larkin told Sherdog.com. In August, when the brackets and pairings for Bellator MMA’s welterweight grand prix were made public, it was also announced that Larkin would face undefeated European prospect Yaroslav Amosov in a bout to decide an alternate for the tournament. After taking a deeper look at Amosov’s 20-0 resume, however, Larkin had his worries about the fight ever happening.
“I’m looking, and this guy’s record is padded. Which there’s nothing wrong with. That’s how you build fighters,” Larkin said. “And I’m like, ‘OK, let’s see if this goes through.’” The Millenia MMA fighter’s intuition turned out to be correct. Amosov was removed from the fight due to an injury -- though Larkin questions its legitimacy -- and instead fellow Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Erick Silva was announced as his replacement a month out from the event.
Then, with just over a week to go before fight night, injury struck his replacement opponent, as Silva was forced to withdraw because of cartilage tears in his rib cage. When Larkin heard the news, he again had his doubts about the injury. He once also had torn cartilage in his rib cage, but felt the severity was odd considering Silva had accepted the fight just a few weeks before.
“My thing is, the first time I heard it I was like, ‘what, did he get jumped?’” Larkin said. Jokes aside, he believes he knows the real reason Silva will not compete against him at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
“The only thing I can come up with is he wanted an easy fight to begin with in the promotion,” Larkin said. “And you can’t have an easy fight in Bellator, because the pool is so deep. There ain’t no easy fights.”
Larkin understands that as well as anyone. As a free agent signing from the UFC, he started off his Bellator tenure with back-to-back losses against top-level welterweights Douglas Lima and Paul Daley. “I don’t mind being thrown to the wolves. I’m a wolf,” Larkin said.
Larkin was fully aware of the talent level at Bellator when he signed with the promotion, and fighting the best is exactly what he wanted from the start.
“I already knew what the talent pool was,” Larkin said. “I wouldn’t want it any other way. I look at myself as a top welterweight in the world. Why would I cheat myself fighting a guy with a low record that hasn’t fought top talent? It doesn’t do sh*t for me. I want to fight the best guys.”
That confidence is why he has no worries about facing the replacement for his replacement, Ion Pascu, on just a little over a week's notice. Larkin believes his experience at the highest levels has him ready for any situation. “The good thing is if this happened some years ago, when I was fresh in the game, then maybe I might be worried. But I’m well-established [and] well-seasoned in this, so somebody like him [Pascu] isn’t throwing me off that much. [I just have to make] little tweaks.”
Pascu and Larkin will face off to determine the alternate for the welterweight grand prix. Larkin was originally in plans to be one of the eight participants, but the dates Bellator had planned for quarterfinal bouts were too far off for a man who hadn’t competed since January. “I hate waiting, I hate not being active,” Larkin said. “It’s going to be nine months since my last fight, I hate layoffs like that. If it was up to me I would like to fight four times in a year.”
The longer-than-expected layoff is the only complaint Larkin has had during his tenure with Bellator. The promotion has a smaller staff than his previous employer. He likes that, as it gives him a chance to build relationships with familiar faces. That wasn’t always the case with the UFC. “Sometimes you go overseas and it’s a whole crew you’ve never even seen before. There’s been times I would go somewhere and I don’t know anybody. I’m like ‘Where did you guys come from?’” Larkin said.
If Larkin wins at Bellator 207, his position as an alternate could have him facing anyone, so it is only natural that he has an eye on the opening round matches. With three fights left in the quarterfinal round, he does have some favorites to make it to the semifinals. He believes Rory MacDonald will bounce back from being decimated by Gegard Mousasi at middleweight and defeat Jon Fitch. He also sees Michael Page winning a lackluster affair against rival Paul Daley. “I see Page winning, but I don’t see him winning in spectacular fashion. I just see him winning by staying on the outside and pot-shotting the whole fight,” Larkin said.
Larkin also believes Ed Ruth will overcome Neiman Gracie. Because of Ruth’s inexperience in the sport, however, Larkin does see weaknesses in the three-time NCAA wrestling champion’s game that could be exploited by future opponents. “I see a lot of things guys can take advantage of. I see a lot of mistakes that he makes,” Larkin said.