Lorenz Larkin is making moves. Vital ones, he’d say; moves that need to be made in order for his career to progress rather than stagnate. There’s the move down in weight, for one. Going from middleweight to welterweight was a move Larkin put in motion in early 2015 and is one that has seen him hit a rich vein of form, winning four of five fights at the weight, his only reversal a split-decision loss to Albert Tumenov. There’s also the move from the UFC to Bellator, one Larkin initiated this year, much to the surprise of some.
Larkin, you see, isn’t your typical UFC cast-off. He isn’t past his best. He isn’t on a losing run. Instead, Larkin arguably scored the win of his career last time out, when chopping down Neil Magny inside a round, and carries stock, as a welterweight, that has never been higher.
Far from a sob story, Larkin’s departure from the UFC was one he decided to trigger when his contract expired and he found himself tempted by the sight and smell of greener grass.
“Before my fight with Magny they came to me with a contract and I felt it was kind of a slap in the face,” Larkin told Fighters Only’s Gareth A. Davies. “This is not me thinking greedy or anything like that. It was just a total slap in the face type of contract. In anybody’s eyes it would be seen that way, especially given the attention I was starting to get in the welterweight division.
“So they decided to let me fight out my contract. My thing is this: if they’re interested in me, I wouldn’t be here at Bellator. I wouldn’t have had the chance to explore free agency. I’m not downing Bellator or anything, I’m just saying that if I was given another contract I would never have gone to free agency and this would never have become a reality. Just from that I take it they’re not interested, and the next best thing is to find an organization that is interested in me and really wants to put some backing behind me and believes in me.”
It could be a decision the UFC live to regret. Larkin certainly has the opportunity this Saturday (June 24) to shoot some told-you-so looks when he goes up against Bellator welterweight champion Douglas Lima at Madison Square Garden, New York. Win that and Larkin won’t just be a welterweight contender the UFC could afford to lose. Win that and he’ll be a 170-pound champion with power and leverage and a target on his back. Win that and it will vindicate not only Larkin’s decision to seek pastures new, but also his decision to drop down in weight and focus on smoothing the rough edges of his MMA game.
“Going down to 170-pounds was the best move of my career,” he said. “That’s when I really started making some noise. That’s when I started making my statement.
“I think it’s just starting to come to a head now. I’ve got a strong MMA base. I’m not just a striker anymore. I feel like my ground game has really improved and my wrestling is getting there. That’s what gives me that edge now.
“Even if you’re a strong wrestler, it’s not easy to pick up striking. It’s not easy to pick up boxing or kickboxing. It’s not easy to pick up wrestling or jiu-jitsu. It just depends on how much time you dedicate to the other crafts. You can’t just stick in your bubble. If you do that, other people will evolve and you’ll be pretty stagnant. You have to kind of abandon what you’re good at and dabble in the things you’re not good at.”
Larkin, a pro since 2009, is seemingly always learning and looking to improve, be it inside the cage or outside the cage. He’s also realising the importance of making the right decisions at the right time and capitalising on opportunities that may come along the way. Now 30, he knows this MMA thing won’t last forever.
“I’m driven right now,” Larkin said. “We don’t have any kids yet. I’m just focused on the career right now and building the concrete base. So when that house goes on, there’s no cracks. The foundation is strong. That’s the goal right now.”