When Lorenz Larkin speaks, his demeanor is as deceptively calm as his fluid, kung fu-influenced fight style. And in much the same way that his smooth footwork belies the ill-intentioned kicks and punches that are coming, his laidback personality conceals an intense drive; “The Monsoon” is a man who knows exactly what he wants out of his career.
What the 33-year-old Californian seems to want more than anything else is to test himself against the toughest challenges he can find, and this Friday’s clash with Andrey Koreshkov in the main event of Bellator 229 certainly qualifies. In the 20-3 Koreshkov – whose only two losses in the last five years have come to welterweight champ Douglas Lima -- Larkin sees one of the most dangerous fighters on the Bellator MMA roster, but maintains that that is why he sought this matchup.
“He’s good everywhere,” Larkin told Sherdog.com. “He’s a well put-together fighter, you know what I mean? And those are the most dangerous. It’s easier to deal with a guy who just has strong wrestling, or is mostly just a striker, than someone who’s good all around. I came into this fight knowing that, but this is the fight that I wanted and [Bellator] made it happen, so I’m pumped for it.”
Koreshkov represents one of the sternest tests of Larkin’s 27-fight career – certainly the toughest since his own meeting with the champ, a shot at Lima’s welterweight title in Larkin’s promotional debut two years ago. Any pressure Larkin feels would presumably be heightened by the fact that Bellator 229 takes place in Temecula, California, a mere 40 minutes from his lifelong home of Riverside. However, it’s quite the opposite: Larkin becomes animated when discussing the prospect of taking on Koreshkov in front of his hometown crowd, friends and family.
“Oh yeah, man, it’s really good. I’ve headlined here once before [against Fernando Gonzalez in 2018], and they were really supportive. But then I had the other time that I was supposed to headline as well, but I was replaced,” he said, referring to a scheduled bout with Koreshkov at Bellator 219 in March that was changed after a back injury early in camp left Larkin unable to make weight. A month out, Larkin camp requested a 180-pound catchweight, which Koreshkov’s team refused, and Larkin was replaced by Mike Jasper. According to Larkin, who watched the event cageside, the hometown love was undiminished.
“That time, I got to see what the seats were looking like,” Larkin said with a laugh.
Another reason Larkin looks forward to fighting just a short drive away from his home is the “short drive” part -- it turns out that Larkin hates to fly. Apparently, a cylinder of metal hurtling along at 30,000 feet is one of the few places that his laidback demeanor cracks.
“I’m not a fan of planes,” he said. “Obviously, I get on them, but it’s something where I have to work myself up, where I’m just saying to myself, ‘Here I go again, f---.’ I’m more relaxed in a fight than I am on a plane, for sure. There’s no way I could take a fight on short notice, like a last-minute fight where I flew in the day before? There’s no way my body could be ready for that fight, because it seriously takes my body like a day to relax after I get off that plane. I’m just so tense.”
Asked if he would prefer to drive to a fight within a reasonable distance – say, Southern California to Las Vegas – Larkin quickly answers in the affirmative, then reveals that incidentally, it was just such a flight that turned his natural apprehensiveness about flying into the full-blown dread he experiences today.
“Actually, you know what’s funny? Early in my career I flew to a couple places, but then it was a flight to Vegas from Ontario, California, that got me to the point that I was really nervous about planes. I was already nervous, but that flight confirmed why I don’t like planes,” Larkin said, then laughed. “It was just a really, really bumpy flight and it was horrible, man. And it was only about a 40-minute flight.”
With Larkin’s fear of air travel firmly established, it comes as a bit of a surprise that the next item on his career wish list after the Koreshkov fight would require about as long a flight as a fighter is ever likely to book.
“Yeah, I see that Rizin is booking their New Year’s Eve show,” Larkin said. “Maybe I’ll need to get in Scott [Coker’s] ear and let him know I wouldn’t mind representing Bellator in Japan!”
He claims not to have a particular opponent in mind for such a fight, but is drawn to the history and pageantry of Japanese MMA and would welcome the chance to compete in one of the sport’s truly hallowed venues.
“It’s at the Saitama [Super Arena], right? Because my thing is, I already knocked one fight location off my bucket list when I got to fight at Madison Square Garden,” Larkin said. “So if I could [fight at Saitama], then I’m basically done with the arena bucket list of places I always wanted to fight in. I grew up watching K-1 and Pride. I was actually more into K-1, but watching all those shows at the Saitama Arena, I never thought I would ever have the possibility of fighting there myself, and now it’s totally possible.”
Completing that short, two-item checklist of legendary fight venues is the only scripted item in Larkin’s future plans. Beyond that, his goal remains the same as it has always been -- to seek out challenges.
“Obviously, I’d like to win the belt, but mostly it’s just fighting,” he said. “It’s always been my goal from the get-go to fight the top guys. I never wanted to be the kind of fighter who would take on a less-skilled opponent just to make sure I got that ‘W.’ I never wanted to be that guy. I never want anyone to be able to say to me that I didn’t fight the best available guys every time. I don’t ever want to cheat myself, and it would be cheating myself not to take the hard route.”
While Larkin’s main desire is to test himself regardless of who happens to be in the care with him, he admits he would like to win his way back to a rematch with Lima, who is still working his way through Bellator’s welterweight grand prix. He recognizes tactical and mental errors he made in their first meeting, many of which were due to it being the first 25-minute fight of his career.
“I could have pressed the issue,” Larkin said. “That’s one thing I do regret out of everything, not pressing the fight. I had never had a five-round fight, and I was too concerned about [conserving my energy]. The funny thing is, at the end of the fourth round, my coach was like, ‘This is the last round! You’ve got to go.’ And I was like ‘This is not the last round, this is the fourth round.’ And Big John [McCarthy] was there and heard us, and he said, ‘Larkin, this is the fifth round.’ And I just went, ‘Oh my God.’
“I had so much energy left, and after the fight I wasn’t fatigued anything like I thought I would be after a five-round fight,” he added with a laugh. “And it just pisses me off every time I think about it. You know, I could have pushed so much harder.”