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The coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone in the mixed martial arts community differently these past couple months.
Lorenz Larkin, who won his fourth straight fight under the Bellator MMA banner on Dec. 29, used the unexpected downtime to focus on other pursuits. Whether that was off roading with his 13-year-old son or working on business ventures outside of the MMA realm, the California native has done his best to remain productive as shelter-in-place orders put limitations on normal activity.
One thing he hasn’t been able to do much, however, is train.
“I almost forgot I was a fighter,” Larkin told Sherdog.com with a laugh.
Larkin took some time off following his unanimous decision triumph against Keita Nakamura at the end of the year, and just as he was ready to get back into the gym, COVID-19 changed everything. While Bellator has reportedly been looking into holding closed-door events on property owned by its parent company as soon as July, Larkin would prefer a little bit more time than that before his next fight booking.
“Maybe August or September. Because I literally haven’t been able to train — for I don’t know how long. For a very, very long time,” he said. “Right after my fight [in December], I took a little bit of a break, but then once I started phasing back in, all this stuff happened. It’s been a big break for me.
“I wouldn’t want to short myself or short my opponent — or even short Bellator of a performance just because I’m not ready. I want to be 100 percent. I thinking August, September, that would be cool.”
Larkin’s victory at Bellator 237 came with added stakes, as promotion president Scott Coker said in October that “The Monsoon” would likely be the No. 1 contender-in-waiting with a victory in Japan. Larkin delivered, but the situation has been complicated by the pandemic.
Lima was booked to face Gegard Mousasi for the vacant middleweight crown at Bellator 242 on May 9 before the coronavirus outbreak forced the cancellation of the card. Lima still has designs on becoming a two-division champion and expects to face Mousasi next once the promotion resumes operations.
That puts Larkin in a difficult situation. His inactivity period is at five months and counting, and it could extend well beyond that if he chooses to wait on Lima. The Milennia MMA representative would prefer to take his chances against another opponent while Lima pursues dreams of middleweight gold.
“I’m not the guy who will sit back and wait,” Larkin said. “I’m pretty sure I’m gonna fight again and then hopefully after I fight and Lima fights, it kind of sets up the right time frame. But yeah, I’m not gonna wait for him to fight and then wait for a camp and then fight him. I’m gonna try to get a fight in, knock a little bit of this rust off and get back into it. So hopefully it lines up that way.”
Larkin won four of his last five UFC appearances before signing with Bellator, where he was instantly booked against Lima in a welterweight title bout at Madison Square Garden in June 2017. Larkin lost a unanimous verdict that night at Bellator 180, but he gained valuable insight into how he would fare in a five-round fight. It’s something he expects to prove beneficial when he squares off against Lima for a second time in a championship encounter.
“I’ve watched him fight even when I wasn’t in Bellator. Nothing really surprised me,” Larkin said. “I knew he had power and those type of things. I think I learned more about myself in that fight than I learned [about] Lima. I knew these things coming in there.
But with me, I didn’t know how I would [fare] in a five-round fight. That was my first five-round fight. I’ve never done that. I was coming in unknowing and unsure if I was going to be able to do five rounds, how my body was going to be, if I was going to gas…I learned a lot of things about myself that I can do against a top-tier opponent. I think it did more for more my confidence and all that type of stuff. Going into this fight, now it’s just knowing instead of guessing and wondering how I’m gonna do. Now I’m knowing what I’m capable of doing.”