Douglas Lima has to do it. There are no two ways about it.
So he holds his nose, takes his medicine and trains wrestling—hard. And he does it with one person on his mind.
“Of course, I’m training to fight a guy like Askren,” Lima said. “The lesson I learned is you just got to train a lot of wrestling. I always did wrestling before but I got to train a lot of it."
The "guy" of whom he speaks is, of course, Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren, otherwise known as the only man to defeat Lima in the past three years and the sole blemish on Lima's Bellator record. The "lesson" to which Lima refers is that elite wrestling may not win you many fans, but it sure wins you fights. That's the lesson Lima (22-5) will carry into the cage Thursday night, when he faces Russian prospect Michail Tsarev (24-3) at Bellator 86 on Spike TV.
It's not like the 25-year-old Lima didn't train in wrestling before, or didn't understand the tremendous literal and figurative leverage wrestling can bring to a fight. But it seems his scrap last April with Askren—a thoroughly dull, thoroughly convincing decisioning in the classic Askren mold—made it a little more real.
Lesson learned. So now Lima is a more intense student of the other man's game, so that he can more forcefully play his own.
“I’m getting my wrestling better and my defense better," Lima said. "I really hate thinking about that Askren fight. I don’t want people to think I fight like that.”
Is Lima focused on Askren and the belt? Of course he is. But that doesn't mean he's living in the past or looking past a dangerous opponent in Tsarev.
"The fight depends on the opponent," Lima said.
Bellator 86 is the second Bellator event to air on Spike TV, and Lima is fighting in the promotion's latest welterweight tournament, the winner of which receives a title shot. As it happens, that very title is on the line that same night, when Lima's old friend Askren defends the strap against streaking contender Karl Amoussou.
In the fall, Lima was one of four fighters eligible for fan voting to determine tournament matchups, until half of the candidates—War Machine and Paul Daley—bowed out with injury and visa issues, respectively. Enter Tsarev, a dangerous young fighter to be certain, but far from the proven commodity of the other two.
If the withdraws served to thin the herd, Lima probably isn't noticing. The welterweight appears to have two goals for the tournament: win and make an impression.
“I want to finish all of them,” Lima said. “I don’t care where they’ve been or what they’ve done. I want them and the fans to know that if there is a fight with me, everyone is going to get a good fight.
“I’m just a fighter looking for the throat,” he continued. “I’m always out there trying to win and to finish. I hope the fans see that. They might know more about some of the other guys than me, but that’s OK. I’m still coming up and I’m getting better every day.”
Scott Harris is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.