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Douglas Lima has the opportunity to achieve many goals at Bellator 232 on Saturday in Uncasville, Connecticut. A win over Rory MacDonald in the welterweight grand prix final would make him a three-time Bellator MMA champion and bring with it a $1 million prize, along with some long-sought redemption. It will be the most pivotal time of his career, and he sounds keenly aware of the monumental nature of the moment.
“I definitely look at it as the biggest fight, that’s for sure,” Lima told Sherdog, “not only [because it is] against Rory [but] it’s a rematch that I’ve been looking for. It’s the tournament final, [and] there’s a lot of money on the line, so there’s a lot in this fight that can make this the biggest of my career.”
With so much on the line, including a chance at life-changing payday, the obvious question of added pressure comes in to play. Although Lima claims he does not feel any increased stress, he is clued in to the importance of securing a victory at the Mohegan Sun Arena and what it could mean for his family’s future.
“My situation’s been pretty good, but man, a million dollars is still a million dollars,” he said with a laugh. “I can’t even think about that now. I’ve got to think about getting through this guy and winning this fight, because if I start thinking about the money, I start making plans. You can’t make plans with something you don’t have yet. You don’t know what’s going to happen. Of course, it’s a life-changing thing. I can do a lot of stuff for my family, [but] I’ve got to get my belt back. That’s my main focus. [There is] no pressure. It’s just another fight.”
The Brazilian has been at or near the top of Bellator’s welterweight division for eight years. Despite his success, he has often been overlooked in mixed martial arts circles. However, after his first encounter with MacDonald, a three-fight series with former champion Andrey Koreshkov in which he went 2-1 and a highlight reel knockout of Michael Page, the situation has changed. It seems fans, media and fellow fighters have finally come to the realization that he is an elite talent and one of the sport’s premier welterweights.
“I feel that, and it’s actually a great feeling,” Lima said. “I’ve been getting a lot of respect, a lot of love from people, from the fighters. I think there were a lot more eyes on this tournament, and I think a lot of guys who’ve never watched me before maybe watched it. I think it definitely started after the first Rory fight, because everybody considered him the best welterweight on the planet. Even though he came out of the UFC with the two losses, he still was the one that held a big win over Tyron Woodley, because at the time, he was the UFC champion. After our fight, I definitely saw the respect grew a little more. It grew after the Koreshkov fight, because I kind of dominated him [and] got the finish in the fifth round and definitely after the ‘Venom’ Page fight. He was the guy that had a lot of eyes on him, and the way I finished the fight, that really grew my platform and the respect I got from everybody.”
Even for a 13-year veteran with championship success, it still means something to be noticed and appreciated by his peers and fans.
“It’s just good to finally get the respect. I’ve been doing this for a decade,” Lima said. “It’s been tough. Nobody recognized me. I was always there [and] not talked about much, but it’s changing, man. It’s getting better. I definitely see the respect a lot more towards me than the first time that we fought.”
However, despite the newfound appreciation from the MMA community, the two-time champion understands he has a serious task in front of him and knows he needs to win to keep the respect train going.
“It obviously doesn’t change the fact that I’ve got to go over there and beat him,” Lima said. “I’ve just got to focus on that [and] forget about everything else.”
Lima recognizes MacDonald’s obvious talent. He came close to upending the Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran in their first meeting in 2018 and badly wants to defeat the man who ended his second title reign at 170 pounds. However, Lima’s desire to vanquish the Canadian revolves around respect, not dislike. He admires MacDonald for what he has accomplished in the sport and in life. As such, it should come as little surprise that the two men have remained civil ahead of their rematch.
“I just really respect him, and I’m really looking forward to competing against him,” Lima said. “I really dislike all that crap talking about fighters and stuff like that. What is there to talk bad about Rory? He’s been fighting forever. He’s been fighting top fighters his whole career. The guy has a family. He’s doing everything right. I don’t have to say anything bad about the guy.”
With that said, “The Phenom” understands that some rivalries are based on legitimate heat, and it can be difficult to contain those emotions. He does not care for manufactured hate.
“I think if it’s real, then OK, I’m good with it,” Lima said. “If they really dislike each other, if there’s some beef in there, then I can watch that [and] go with it. I just don’t like when people force it too much. They just say something that doesn’t make sense. That’s what kills me. I like what I’m doing. I like the respectful way. You go there, we kill it in the cage, we beat each other up, hug each other after and that’s it. Hopefully, people see that you don’t have to talk crap about somebody’s mom to sell a fight. I can be respectful and still go out there and put on a fantastic fight.”
MacDonald and Lima engaged in a grueling five-round battle in January 2018. The Canadian’s superior wrestling accounted for the difference, though Lima left him visibly impaired with a series of thunderous kicks to the lead leg. Looking back on their scrap at Bellator 192, the American Top Team Atlanta export believes key mistakes in the grappling department cost him the fight. Lima feels he has since made the necessary adjustments and will be better prepared when they lock up for a second time.
“I don’t blame my coaches or training camp,” he said. “I didn’t fight hard enough in certain positions, and that’s what got me to lose that fight, but I learned from it -- like I showed in the third Koreshkov fight. There was not one takedown. I proved that I have the wrestling defense and offense if I need to [use it].”
Although he had his troubles with MacDonald in the grappling exchanges, Lima did enjoy a great deal of success in the striking department. However, he knows the Tristar Gym star and his coaches will have a game plan for his patented leg kicks.
“That camp that he has, those guys are smart,” Lima said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for [Tristar trainer] Firas Zhabi. He’s very smart with the game plans. I’m sure they are working on a lot of stuff for the kicks. I’m not going to focus too much on the leg kicks, because I know he’s going to be ready for that. If I feel it’s safe and it’s there, I’ll definitely do it, but if not, I’ve got other weapons. I’ve got a few other surprises for him.”