Even though reigning Bellator MMA welterweight champion Ben Askren does not have any contracted fights lined up with the organization and is a free agent, No. 1 contender Douglas Lima is preparing for a showdown with “Funky.”
“Right now my training is for him,” Lima told MMAjunkie.com Radio. “I’m just playing the waiting game, and we’ll see what happens. I’m preparing for him, so whatever happens, I’ll be ready.”
Askren (12-0 MMA, 9-0 BMMA) currently is testing the waters in the free agent market after completing the final fight of his existing Bellator contract earlier this year.
But while the former Olympian is out trying to discover his value, the division’s top contender, Lima (25-5 MMA, 7-1 BMMA) is focused on defeating the champion in what would be a rematch from an April 2012 bout that Askren won by unanimous decision.
Lima earned his second shot at the championship with a highlight-reel head-kick knockout of Ben Saunders in the main event of Bellator 100 this past week to win the Season 8 welterweight tournament.
It was arguably the most brutal finish of Lima’s career and certainly one of the most devastating in Bellator history, a fact that satisfies “The Phenom” greatly.
“For me, it was like one of my best finishes – very happy with that, with the performance,” Lima said. “I’ve just got to heal up, got to calm down and just go back to training, because the main goal for me is to get the title.”
The Brazilian claims to have injured his hand in the fight with Saunders, though he has yet to discover the extent of the damage.
With Askren in limbo and Lima’s hand busted up, the date of Bellator’s next 170-pound championship fight is unknown, though Lima is hoping to compete for the belt in early 2014 regardless of whether or not Askren has re-signed.
“[I'll fight someone else] if it takes too long for him to sign or if he doesn’t,” Lima said. “I think that’s what’s going to happen. Early next year, Season 10, that’s what I’m hoping for. Hopefully my hand will be 100 percent by then.”
Lima’s life has changed a lot since his first loss to Askren. A newborn daughter gives the 25-year-old added motivation when he steps in the cage, which is one of the reasons why he has railed off four consecutive knockout victories.
“I’ve got a little kid now, a little daughter, so that’s my main goal with the money,” Lima said of his plans for his $100,000 tournament winnings. “Saving it and everything to give [my daughter] a better life.”
Healing his hand is Lima’s top priority following his most recent victory, but he also can’t help but think of the opportunity that awaits him just around the corner.
Lima failed to capture the Bellator welterweight title once before, but he has no intentions of allowing history to repeat itself.
“I can’t wait – I can’t wait to get that strap. I’m working really hard for it, and hopefully everybody will like the fight.”
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