What a time it is to be Lorenz Larkin.
After nearly a decade in the fight game, Larkin is finally set to challenge for his first major title when he takes on Douglas Lima at #BellatorNYC on June 24.
Having successfully navigated the rocky waters of MMA free agency, Lorenz Larkin signed with Bellator after a 5-5 stint in the UFC. But the numbers do necessarily tell the full story of a fighter who began his career with a 12-0 run at light heavyweight before finding his groove, years later, at 170 pounds.
Larkin has looked spectacular at welterweight, winning four of his last five. But don’t forget that he once fought a juiced up “King Mo,” and bested Robbie Lawler at middleweight, before thrashing Jorge Masvidal and Neil Magny inside the Octagon.
A true veteran, who has traversed the MMA gauntlet; from the regional circuit, to #Strikeforce, to the UFC, and now Bellator; Lorenz Larkin is just days away from the biggest fight of his life. Ahead of this career-defining moment and opportunity, Larkin sat down with Champions to talk about his journey to #MadisonSquareGarden.
Champions: So, basically you walked away from the whole free agency experience with the golden ticket: new contract, Bellator title shot, Madison Square Garden. How did all those pieces just fall into place for you?
Lorenz Larkin: It’s, dude, it’s crazy, man. How can I explain it -- [after] everything that happened, this is not the outcome I thought it was gonna be because it wasn’t looking too bright.
In the beginning, I thought I did all the necessary things to make a splash and really make some noise to the point where I was gonna get my contract renewed and stuff like that. Going through that whole mishap, and finally getting employed by an organization … it worked out in a way that I never thought it was gonna work out in a million years.
[At first] we were just talking about a contract … fighting for the belt, it’s like dude ...
C: Things certainly seem like they’re working out for the best, but was there ever any resentment or animosity toward the UFC before you got the Bellator contract?
LL: With the UFC, everybody thinks I got cut, and that’s not the situation. My contract expired, and it took them five months to come back with another offer cause the first offer was before the Magny fight. And, then the second offer was two weeks before I signed with Bellator. So, it’s cumulative.
The financial part has to be there to make sense to me, and at the end of the day it’s a respect thing too. Why do I want to fight for somebody who doesn’t really care? I’m not asking them to take me to dinner.
I’m seeing guys get paid, like, this is what you’re paying for? You’re paying for these guys and they’re not even doing shit. I was real pissed when I heard about Sage Northcutt and all this shit. I’m not trying to be one of those guys, but I’ve put in my time ... and it’s like, this kid that’s supposed to be so exciting comes in and he’s getting 50 and 50?
I could see if we’re talking right now and this dude is the champ, but this guy was the biggest flop. I’m not trying to talk shit on him, it’s just like, he wasn’t ready. It makes you sit back and think “what are you looking for?”
C: Then again, there’s nothing quite like an immediate title shot to heal those wounds ...
LL: I never got the opportunity in the past ... because I was always like a real undercard fight, or just kind of flying underneath the radar. I wasn’t really getting pushed by my last employer, so now it’s a complete 180.
C: Yeah, after the way you finished Magny back in August, it seemed probable that you’d get the arc and the push that Jorge Masvidal ultimately got for his fights with “Cowboy” Cerrone and Demian Maia. How did watching Jorge’s star rise aggravate you as you waited for a new contract?
LL: I was jazzed for Jorge; I wanted him to win Maia.
Jorge’s always been Jorge. He’s always fought the same. There’s nothing about him that’s fucking different than previous fights in the UFC ... it shows you where things are and where the game has gone.
It’s not like he’s got some big flair about him now … he’s always been a good fighter, and it took for him to talk shit on “Cowboy” to get the fight.
That’s what it takes; you gotta talk shit now. I get it. It’s part of the game. I love people who talk shit that are good at it, but that’s not the only way you should be able to get notoriety in this sport …
C: Was this your main frustration with the UFC? Or were there other gripes, for example uniforms and sponsorship, that influenced your decision to sign with Bellator?
LL: It just felt almost like we were kind of like robots for a little bit, with no sense of originality.
I get it from a business aspect, but from a fighters aspect, that’s what fans gravitated towards. Everybody knows Melvin Manhoef, but the biggest thing is his shorts, the skirt. When you see that skirt, you’re like “that’s fucking Melvin Manhoef.” It’s shit like that.
It’s just like the more and more you take from that, and have all these guys all in the same shit, there’s no flair to it any more. There’s no originality … it did get dull for a second ... everybody’s dressed like they’re in fucking private school.
C: Actually, you came along at an interesting time, the latter days of Strikeforce. Having been around the block a bit, how have you seen options change for the younger, up-and-comers?
LL: In the beginning, it’s all about your hustle, especially in this sport, if you can sell tickets.
There’s a lot of guys in the beginning ... I always come across that don’t sell tickets, that just want to fight, get in the UFC or some big show and make it. But, they don’t have no drive behind them or no type of like business savvy.
How are guys complaining about money, but not pulling a crowd? Why is the promoter gonna pay you? I made all my money off ticket sales, and then by me making so much money, my purse got bigger. I was 4-0 making four grand to fight, which is dope out here.
C: From the regional shows in southern California, you eventually ended up fighting on some pretty good cards with Strikeforce, on Showtime. What do you still remember about your early days on the major circuit?
LL: My first big show, fighting on Showtime, that was just a whole different experience for me.
I headlined a show in Vegas at the Palms for [Strikeforce] Challengers, so it was dope man.
It was kind of like a whirlwind cause I was still young … I really didn’t give a shit who I fought … I was at 205, fighting fucking guys.
C: As a former light heavyweight, it feels appropriate to ask about the cut down to 170?
LL: I get up pretty big but … when it’s time to really buckle down, my weight goes down.
I fuck up just like anybody else -- last night we ate pizza -- but I have the discipline though. I know when to turn it on. Once I sign a contract to fight, I don’t drink at all … my first fight until now, if I sign the contract, I won’t drink at all.
C: Let’s talk about your upcoming opponent, Douglas Lima, for a moment. What are your initial thoughts on the current Bellator welterweight champ, and how are you preparing for him?
LL: I try not to get all involved cause I think sometimes fighters can get over obsessed with the guy they’re fighting and pay too much attention to something that may not be there the night of fight.
I’ve done that in the past, where I’ve obsessed about an opponent, and, say he likes to throw this for sure … and the shit never happens that night.
With me, the most I do is look at their last fight, and I let my coaches do the rest … my coaches know what I should be looking out for … it’s just getting my hands right, blocking, blocking this side, blocking that side.
C: The Bellator NYC card is split between legends with big names and relevant title fights like yours. In what way do you expect the intensity of your fight with Lima to differ from the headliners?
LL: With me and Lima, that’s just a crazy fight. Period.
Straight down the line, everybody knows what he can do, and everyone knows what I can do. They know that they’re not gonna get a dull-ass fight. It’s right at the right section of the card where it’s potentially gonna be one of the best fights of the night.
I know what he brings to the table, and I know how exciting he is. There’s no way we’re gonna cancel each other out, or have a dull-ass fight cause I put it all out there, he puts it all out there so that just makes for one of the greatest fights on one of the greatest Bellator cards.
C: It certainly does.
You’ve been at this, professionally, for eight years now. Curious to know if someone has screwed you over along your the way to MSG?
LL: In the beginning I got shafted pretty good, but I came back and I shafted him right back … we’re probably even.
I was like 2-0, 1-0 maybe, and this promoter hit me up to fight this guy. I think his guy was like 4-1, something like that ... it was a last minute fight.
So, I cut the weight for 205 [pounds], drove out there, weighed in, made weight, and on the way back home, the promoter hit up my coach and said ‘your guy has too much experience.’
He was a promoter’s golden boy -- I was like, why did I weigh in, [and] how did I have too much experience?
So anyway, the promoter gave me 50 tickets just to sell, last minute, for my fight, and I was always good at selling tickets. When he called off the fight … I called up my boy last minute, and I was like ‘dude I’ll give you money if you roll with me.’
[We] drove almost two hours from my house. We drove out there early, way before the fight started, and sold all the tickets in the parking lot, half off.
I ended up making more than I was going to make fighting for them, just selling the tickets.
C: And how about your purse on June 24? How is this fight going to set you up for the future?
LL: I want to be done at 36, and I want to be out of this fucking game.
I’m at the point where I’m trying to get all my ducks in order right now. The money that comes in, I’m trying to invest in things and get situated for after this.
Back then, I was just winning fights and I was just blowing it ... I was just fucking up my money. I was just fighting from check, to check, to check, paying up my rent for however long. Now I’m trying to have all my business things in place for after the fight game.
I’ve always made sure [that] I’m not just the guy signing shit … and being fucked later on.
I’m just in the process of getting all my stuff in order, so this past two years [I] paid off my grandma’s house … I bought another house in San Bernardino ... so I’m trying to do all these things to get me right.
C: Winning a world title at Madison Square Garden wouldn’t hurt as you try to set yourself up. Has it really sunk it yet that you’re about to have the biggest fight of your life, that can really change everything for you?
LL: It hasn’t really hit me yet. I know I’m fighting for a belt.
At the end of the day, I treat it like any other fight. I go in there, train my ass off. I think when I get there, a bit more pressure will be on me as far as fighting in the garden. But for now it hasn’t really hit me.
Even when we went out there for the press conference, it was just going through the mechanics of things. I think when I’m back there warming up, right before … then it will probably hit me. I know what’s happened at the garden ... the magnitude of this fight right now, I’ve just been focused on training my ass off.
I’m pumped to be fighting at the garden. That’s something that not too many fighters can say, or will ever be able to say, in their whole career … which is crazy. I’m pumped for the opportunity to be like “I won the belt at Madison Square Garden.” That’s something that I’m gonna hold for the rest of my life.
Lorenz Larkin Further Reading:
- Cutting Weight In the Same Sauna as Your Opponent
- Before ‘The Monsoon,’ I Was Known as ‘The Chihuahua’
- Promoting CAMO Amateur MMA Shows is a Way of Giving Back
- Sometimes Moving Forward Means Leaving People Behind
- Thoughts on MMA Free Agency, Part 1: The Real Focus Needs to Be on the Fighters
- Thoughts on MMA Free Agency, Part 2: There are Killers in Both Organizations