Lorenz Larkin (center) at the Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy weigh-ins yesterday making 185 pounds for the first time in his career. Photo by Esther Lin.
But his meteoric rise through the promotion's ranks was halted by the wrestling and heavy ground and pound of former champion "King" Muhammed Lawal earlier this year.
Larkin didn't have too much time to dwell on his first career defeat as not too long after the event, Lawal's sample came back positive for steroids and the bout was eventually overturned into a "no contest."
Now back to being undefeated again, "The Monsoon" decided it was time to quit screwing around at 205 pounds and to make the cut down to middleweight.
The Riverside native will be taking on former title challenger Robbie Lawler in his divisional debut later tonight (July 14, 2012) in the opening bout of the Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy main card in Portland, Oregon and he spoke to MMAmania.com about the difficulties of dropping down, how he responded to his first serious career adversity and why he feels he's a more evolved fighter than Lawler in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've here doing your fight week, now did you have to do the Fighter Summit too or did you get the week off because of the proximity to your fight?
Lorenz Larkin: No, anybody who was fighting the Portland show or the recent one on Wednesday that just passed didn't have to go to it luckily.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now you don't have to do a refresher course afterwards either or are you off Scott free until next year?
Lorenz Larkin: I think I'm Scott free, man, and I'm glad. That is not all it's talked up to be or what everybody thinks it is. That thing, it was cool my first time but if I can get out of it, I would.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Well it sounds like you just need to schedule a fight every year in mid July and you'll be golden.
Lorenz Larkin: I know man, exactly.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's roll into the big news coming up. You're fighting on Saturday and you're making your first cut to 185. How has the cut been going? I saw you had to make some pretty significant changes to your diet.
Lorenz Larkin: Yeah, so far it's okay but I'm not gonna lie, it was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. Once my body got adjusted to it and I got used to it, then I was cool and we're cruisin' now.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've got to ask, what is the one food or maybe a select group of foods that you had to give up that was really hard to let go?
Lorenz Larkin: Man, Chinese food and burgers and burritos. I loved those, they were big things and I can't eat them if I want to make 185.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You were noncommittal about dropping down a weight class the last time I talked to you after the "King Mo" fight. What ended up being the straw that broke the camel's back that led to your decision to ultimately make the cut down? Was it something your coaches convinced you to do or did you decide?
Lorenz Larkin: I decided. It was just one of those things where I just really sat down and it just like, the guys weren't getting any smaller. I'm not gonna grow no more. I can get bigger, like wider, but I'm not gonna physically get any taller. I have to have my A-game in every fight at light heavyweight. You can't have a perfect game though. Everyone has slip-ups and if a fighter corrects them, he can still win the fight but I had no room for error at light heavyweight. I couldn't make any mistakes when I was fighting at 205.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): So is it going to be nice finally getting to fight guys your own size? Your two fights in the Challengers series were against huge light heavyweights nearly half a foot taller than you and then you faced King Mo who was so big and strong. Is it going to be nice to finally face guys relatively closer to your own size.
Lorenz Larkin: Yeah, I mean, it's gonna feel weird being maybe the bigger guy or if the guy is just my size. It's gonna be a great thing.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I heard you changed up your training camp for this fight. You started working at Millennium MMA and Empire. What motivated that decision?
Lorenz Larkin: Just to go with a better curriculum. Getting in there with wrestlers now with Millennium MMA and Empire MMA out here, my game has evolved now. I've got guys that are pushing me and keeping me on my toes.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now onto this upcoming fight, you're facing Robbie Lawler, a veteran but you've said you feel your game is more 'evolved' than his. What I want to know is in what ways do you think your game is more evolved than his?
Lorenz Larkin: I would just say he's a veteran and what I see with veteran fighters is they don't tend to change. They've already gone as high as they can go and that's where they top off at. I'm not saying that they suck but I'm saying that they don't improve at the rate that the younger guys improve. You see him fight and then you see him fight six months down the road, he's going to be the same. That's what I meant by that. He's a veteran and he has his game and I don't expect nothing to change that I haven't already seen from him. I'm new to this game and every month that I'm training I'm learning more because I don't know everything yet. Every time I go into these camps, I'm evolving more and more and I don't think Robbie's evolving.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about you. You're talking about how much you're evolving and learning so what do you think is something you've really evolved with, something you've really learned and added to your game since the last time we've seen you?
Lorenz Larkin: Wrestling. Working with Paul Herrera on my wrestling and he's working with my gameplan and taking me to a whole new level. For me, with the improvement in my wrestling, my jiu-jitsu game is evolving too now that I'm getting that wrestling base. It's my ground for sure.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I know it's officially a no contest now, but was this decision motivated by what King Mo was able to do holding you down and you were having a lot of trouble underneath him?
Lorenz Larkin: Yeah, yeah a bit. That and the steroids (laughs). Really though, that was an eye opener. I knew I needed to work on my wrestling and all that stuff but I wasn't workign on it as much as I needed to and now I'm at two new gyms and they're giving me the work to where I need to be.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're still kind of considered a prospect and in Lawler's last fight, he faced a good prospect in Adlan Amagov and he was able to take him out. Were you able to take anything away from his performance against a good up-and-comer like that?
Lorenz Larkin: Yeah, Amagov, I consider him a good striker but he tends to be a bit more wild standing. I think when he's wrestling and doing his jits. He's got power because he was knocking people out but Robbie was way more technical than that guy as far as his hands and setting everything up.
I took more from the Manhoef fight than the Amagov fight to be honest.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): So does that mean you think you're more technical in your striking than Robbie Lawler? He has some nice punches but he doesn't mix things up that much and judging from the Manhoef fight, he doesn't blog leg kicks at all. Is that something you see?
Lorenz Larkin: Yeah, I think that if I'm not more, then I'm at least the same in terms of technical and I think if somebody is just as technical as he is or nto more, he shuts down. Even going all the way back to Nick Diaz, I think Diaz got to him with the trash talk inside the cage. I just think when he comes in against someone that's more technical or as technical, it's very hard for him.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Dropping down to 185 and this is a huge showcase fight on a card that features the middleweight title. What do you think a victory over a former title challenger like Robbie Lawler will do for you in this crowded middleweight division in Strikeforce?
Lorenz Larkin: I would hope that when I beat Robbie, and in August, Derek Brunson is fighting Jacare, it'll put me up there to the point where maybe I fight the winner of Jacare vs. Brunson for a number one contender spot or even up there because I look at it like Robbie is on his way up and he's right up there in title contention. I'm fighting to soar up in the rankings. I think what I want and what will end up happening are probably totally different though.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When you're visualizing success and picturing victory whether it's during the fight or after the fight, what do you see?
Lorenz Larkin: I just see excitement and doing what I was training for. I just want to do everything my coaches instilled in me and put it to show for everybody. That's where I get to show off and I plan on showing off in the cage.
Lorenz would like to thank Ion Me, his two gyms Empire MMA and Millennium MMA, Arnold DeWitt, Paul Herrerra and everybody who supports him. You can follow him on Twitter @Da_Monsoon.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will Larkin's debut at middleweight be a successful one? Is he going to prove he's more evolved than Lawler or does the veteran still have some tricks up his sleeve?