No matter how much he's hailed as one of the fastest rising prospects, Douglas Lima refuses to let the hype go to his head.
Instead, he uses it as fuel to try and meet the lofty expectations that people have of him.
At just 23 years old, "The Phenom" enters the Bellator season five tournament riding a huge wave of momentum after claiming the MFC welterweight championship and then defending his title once before defecting to Bellator.
Lima is an extremely talented submission fighter and he's quickly learning to add some striking technique to his already dangerous skill-set. He'll be facing Steve Carl this Saturday night (September 10, 2011) at Bellator 49 in Atlantic City.
The American Top Team Atlanta fighter spoke with MMAmania.com about living up to the hype, adding more weapons to his arsenal and what he has in store for Steve Carl on Saturday night.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You train out of Ascension American Top Team in Atlanta and there's a couple other guys in this tournament that train out of different American Top Team locations. Ben Saunders is in Coconut Creek and Dan Hornbuckle has trained over there. Is that a conflict? Are you worried about having to face those guys in the later rounds?
Douglas Lima: No, not really. The team is so big. American Top Team has gyms all over the world, all over America so there's no surprise that I could meet some of those guys later on. I never trained with any of them. I know people that did but I don't really worry about fighting people from your same team or whatever. It should be good, man. It doesn't really matter because we're all going for the same goal.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your last fight was against Terry Martin and you had a terrific performance. You knocked him down and finished him with strikes. I know you're a guy that's primarily known as a submission fighter. How good did it feel to get that knockout standing and really get a chance to showcase what you've been working on in your stand-up?
Douglas Lima: In the last fight I wanted to show people that I can also strike and that I'm not just a jiu-jitsu guy. I heard from Terry Martin in an interview that he said he was gonna hurt me very bad if I ever stand with him or whatever so I took that kinda personal and I had to go over there and finish him with striking at his own game. People cannot underestimate anybody. I'm ready for whatever comes, striking jiu-jitsu, I should be ready.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I know Wanderlei Silva was one of your heroes and your inspiration to get into MMA. It must have felt good to have a Wanderlei-esque victory knocking him down and finishing with that crazy flurry of strikes while he was off balance.
Douglas Lima: Exactly. When I was fighting in my amateur career, most of my fights were kinda like trying to fight like him. Silva's the man and I just love his style and I still do. Sometimes I got myself in trouble when I tried to fight like him.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your brother Dhiego Lima is fighting Terry Martin at the next MFC show. Have you been giving him tips on how to knock Martin out?
Douglas Lima: For sure man, we train together a lot and I help him however I can. Terry Martin just wants revenge because I knocked him out but at the end of the day, it's gonna be the same outcome. He's thinking he's gonna fight my younger brother and there's gonna be a big different story but that's a bad mistake. It's gonna be worse and my brother is ready, he's strong and he's gonna beat him. He's training hard for that and he's in shape for a fight and Terry's going down again.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): After your last victory, your contract was up and you signed with Bellator. What's the experience been like so far in the promotion.
Douglas Lima: So far, so good. I can't wait for the first fight on the 10th. Everything has been good. I met the guys in New York when we went for a photoshoot. They really took care of us. The show seems really good. I'm just excited,man. I've got no complains and I just can't wait to get this tournament started and leave it all in the cage.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Before you entered MFC, you did a tournament called the Sin City fight club. It was a month break between fights. Do you think that tournament format experience will help prepare you going into this Bellator tournament?
Douglas Lima: Yeah, definitely. Actually, it was the same exact style tournament with the same time between fights. The only difference was it was at 185 pounds so I had to move up in weight for it. Everything was good, though. I won the tournament and I plan on doing the exact same thing in this one. Go there, do my thing and win it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What are your thoughts of your first round opponent, Steve Carl?
Douglas Lima: Steve Carl man, he's a tough opponent. From the fights that I've seen, he really comes to fight. He likes to use jiu-jitsu and he likes to strike. I think we're going to have a really exciting match for the fans. I don't ever want to have a boring match. He's not the type of guy that will just hold a guy down. He really tries to work from what I've seen. That will make it a great fight. People will like it, people will enjoy it and I will never underestimate anybody. This is not gonna be the first time for me and I'm ready for whatever he brings whether he wants to stand or go to the ground and wrestle. Everything.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Carl has some pretty nice submission skills, how would you compare his Brazilian jiu-jitsu to yours?
Douglas Lima: Well, from the videos of the fights that I've watched, there's no way that I can compare. He's good and I don't want to say my jiu-jitsu's better than him........but I'll be ready. I know his style. I know the way he fights. He's a good ground guy but that doesn't scare me in any way. I train in jiu-jitsu a lot and I'm a brown belt under Roan Carneiro and I'll be ready for his jiu-jitsu.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Bellator has some pretty talented wrestlers at the top of the division. Your opponent, Steve Carl, is a pretty good wrestler and the men fighting for the title, Ben Askren and Jay Hieron, are excellent wrestlers. How much have you been focusing on your defensive wrestling to be able to keep the fight where you want it?
Douglas Lima: Yeah, I've been working a lot not only on defense but also on my offensive wrestling. I want to be able to take people down and control where the fight takes place. Wrestling is actually my main focus right now because in one of my recent fights I got taken down a lot so it just makes you train harder. I've been training a lot of my wrestling and after this fight I'm going to go out and just focus on wrestling straight for two weeks so I should be ready. I want to give Askren a fight and I want that belt and to be able to do that I've gotta get my wrestling updated.
Douglas Lima: Yeah man, I don't know what happened. I think I got too used to laying down. I should have defended those takedowns better. He took me down over and over and over. Whatever. I got him, but I'm still disappointed with that. I shouldn't be able to let that happen and I don't want nothing like that happening ever again.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've read some of your interviews and you've talked about some of the fighters in this tournament. Brent Weedman is in here and you want to avenge that loss. He's the only guy to ever submit you in a fight. Can you talk about what happened in the first fight with Brent Weedman?
Douglas Lima: It was going pretty good man. Brent Weedman is tough. I was working from the top and he just slipped a triangle on me and man, it was so tight. I didn't want to tap to the triangle and I was fighting it for a very long time and then 30 seconds before the round finished he switched to an armbar and I felt it popping so I had to tap (laughs). Whatever though, it was a learning experience and I got tapped in the fight. It happens to a lot of fighters but it's all good. If we fight and it happens again, I'm just not gonna let that happen. It should be good, it would be exciting to fight him again.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How badly do you want to avenge that loss? Are you really looking forward to getting a chance to face him later down the road?
Douglas Lima: Yeah, but it's not my main concern right now. For me, it doesn't really matter. Whatever comes next, I just want to win the tournament and go after that title. If the rematch happens, that's fine. I'm not calling him out and it's not anything like that but whatever. Whatever comes, I'll be ready. If Brent Weedman comes then it's even better because it's a rematch but at this point, I just want to go in there and win all my fights. The past is the past and you've just got to try to forget that, forget the losses. If I avenge that loss, it would be great but I've got to keep moving forward.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've talked about how you want to get that belt and the guy that holds it right now is Ben Askren. What are your thoughts on him as a fighter?
Douglas Lima: Ben is a really good wrestler. I don't really like his style because he just holds people down. The last fight he had for the title was just five rounds of him laying on top of the guy. He does what he does though and he wins the fight so good for him. I don't really like that style of just lay and pray pretty much but I'm trying for that. Whenever I fight him, I sure won't let that happen. If he tries to take me down, I'm gonna tap him out, you know? That's my goal. He's a good opponent, he's a tough guy and I respect him for that but you've got to get it going someday. I want to fight him.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): There are several websites that have you listed as a top prospect at welterweight, you've even got the nickname "The Phenom." Is there any pressure coming into this tournament that you almost have to win it to live up to the hype?
Douglas Lima: No man. Really, no pressure at all. I'm happy about the accolades, stuff like that because that means that all my hard work is paying off and I love when people consider me the favorite. It just makes me train a lot harder so as to not disappoint them because I've got people in my career and this is my life's work. It feels good to see it paying off and to see my coaches proud of the work they've done. There's no pressure at all.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): My last question for you is what do you think people can expect with your upcoming fight against Steve Carl on the 10th?
Douglas Lima: Well I'm just gonna try to make it exciting for everybody, for the crowd and at the same time not get stupid and do anything dumb. I just want to go in there and win my fight so people can remember. I don't want to do a boring fight. Everybody watch it and enjoy because I'm coming to win the tournament. I'm training so hard and I'm so ready and expect a good fight from me. I'm ready.
Douglas would like to thank all his training partners, all his coaches, his management SuckerPunch Entertainment, his gym, his brother and especially his fans.
So what do you think Maniacs?
Does Lima have what it takes to go all the way and win the Bellator crown? Or will "The Phenom's" hype train be derailed?
Be sure to check out these other interviews from our Bellator welterweight introductory series: