When the first-round matchups for the Bellator welterweight Grand Prix were announced last week, several items stood out.
One was the fact that Rory MacDonald’s welterweight title is on the line throughout the tournament, with the new champion defending should MacDonald lose. Another is that all the fights will be scheduled for a full five rounds. Yet another is that the anticipated grudge match between Paul Daley and Michael “Venom” Page will go down in the opening round.
After you got past the splashiest items, another one came into focus: Lorenz Larkin is a part of the tournament, but as an alternate.
On the surface, that would seem a demotion for someone who entered the company to great fanfare just over a year ago. Larkin entered Bellator as a high-profile free agent, coming off a run in which he had won four of his past five bouts in the UFC, three of them via finish.
Larkin was granted an immediate title match with then-champ Douglas Lima at Bellator NYC. But he lost that fight via unanimous decision, and also a subsequent fight with Daley, before earning a unanimous decision win over Fernando Gonzalez in January.
So Larkin finds himself with a 1-2 Bellator record and in an alternates matchup against undefeated hotshot Yaroslav Amosov, which is expected to go down on either Bellator 207 on Oct. 12 or Bellator 208 on Oct. 13.
Bellator CEO Scott Coker, however, says that you should not read Larkin’s status as an alternate as a sign the company has soured on their big-ticket signing. Rather, it’s a matter of timing and logistics.
“Lorenz wanted to be a part of the tournament and he wanted to fight as soon as possible,” Coker told MMA Fighting. “He hasn’t fought since January, and this was the quickest way to get him back into action.”
The story checks out. Bellator wanted to make Daley-Page, so that duo was spoken for. It’s too soon to go back to a rematch with Lima, who is booked with Andrey Koreshkov on Sept. 29 in San Jose. MacDonald has a bout with middleweight champ Gegard Mousasi upcoming, which means it will be awhile before he’s back; and blue-chip prospect Ed Ruth, who meets Neiman Gracie in the opening round, fought just over a month ago.
So Larkin chose the route which would give him the fastest way back into competition. And as Coker notes, being an alternate is nothing to be ashamed of: Daniel Cormier, after all, was an alternate in the Strikeforce Grand Prix tournament which launched him down a path that brought him to simultaneous UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight titles.
“Daniel Cormier was our second alternate in the Strikeforce tourney in 2011,” Coker said. “And he gets in and defeats Bigfoot Silva and Josh Barnett and wins the whole thing. So yeah, don’t read too much into Lorenz as an alternate. You’ve got a lot of things to juggle putting together a tournament and this was the best way to get him in the mix and get him into a fight soon. We’re as glad to have him on board as we’ve always been.”