Bellator 172 comes to SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., this Saturday night (Feb. 18, 2017), featuring a main event between Heavyweight legend “Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko against former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) standout Matt Mitrione.
Earlier in the night on Spike TV, though, two Lightweight veterans will square off in a dynamic bout that presents unique opportunities for both men, including a potential title shot with “Iron” Mike Chandler down the line.
Josh Thomson seeks his third straight win since leaving UFC for Bellator, and he has made no bones about his ambitions in Bellator MMA — he’s going to keep fighting until he gets the gold. After pulling out of his last title shot with injury, though, he has to prove himself all over again. Patricky Freire has equal ambition and a desire for redemption, having lost his match with Chandler to crown a new champion when the 155-pound title was vacant. Beating a known name like “The Punk” would be a shortcut back to the top.
“Pitbull” recently spoke with MMAmania.com about the tough battle ahead with Thomson this weekend and how the last 12 months prepared him for the challenge ahead.
“(2016) was a great year. It has more positives than negatives. Unfortunately, I didn’t the year on a high note, but it was a good year for me.”
It could be an even better 2017 if he was to begin the campaign by beating Thomson in his first fight of the year.
“It’s going to be a great fight. Josh Thomson is fighting at home and he always brings it best when he’s fighting at home. I know he’s going to be prepared for a war and I’m going to have to answer him, and I want to win this fight so much, so I’m going to be ready. I know it’s not going to be easy, he’s going to be ready for war for all three rounds, and I’m ready for that and to be able to perform to the best of my ability and beat him at his own home.”
Homefield advantage is something Thomson has had in every Bellator fight thus far, while Freire’s entire Bellator career dating back to 2011 has been a road game. “Pitbull” would clearly like the same opportunity.
“I always dreamed about a Bellator show in Brazil ever since I signed with them. Nothing would make me happier. If it’s my city I would be even happier so I look forward to that. I hope that they can make it happen in the near future.”
And as for the fight being three rounds, some of Thomson’s most epic battles in San Jose — and indeed his whole career — have been five-round main events. Would Freire have preferred a five-round war with such a legendary opponent?
“I don’t mind if it’s three rounds. I would be ready if it was for five as well, but what I’m happy about is the opportunity to get this fight, and to fight this guy who is such a big name and (as) the co-main event of Fedor Emelianenko, which is a huge event. All eyes will be on us that night, so that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Even though he’ll be public enemy No. 1 while trying to usurp Thomson for top contender status, Freire enjoys the feeling of being the spoiler in front of a hostile crowd … and possibly against hostile judges, too.
“It gives me extra motivation because I love to fight against the crowd and silence them. It gives me extra motivation to do that, but I’ve got two wars that I’m fighting here. His hometown, the commission, the judges there are used to seeing him fight (and) to judge his fights. I fear that if I don’t finish this fight with a KO or a submission and it goes to a decision (and) it’s a bit close, they will side with him. That’s something on the back of my mind a bit, and I’ll do anything to not lose.”
What then is the key to victory for Freire to avoid what he feels could be a hometown robbery from the judges?
“He knows that the biggest possibility of me finishing him is standing and striking with him. That’s how I won most of my fights and the highlights that go the best. He’s pretty good on the ground, but so am I, and I would be ready to fight him grappling. I’m a real Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, so I’m sure I could choke him on the ground if the opportunity presents itself, but the higher odds are on me finishing him standing.”
The emphasis was the translator’s, who went on to assure me they weren’t assailing Thomson’s jiu-jitsu, but rather the sudden abundance of MMA black belts who were “gifted” their status without the years of hard work to earn it. One thing is for certain: On Saturday night in San Jose nobody is walking away from the co-main event with any form of victory be it knockout, submission or decision without putting in all of that hard work.
“When a fighter wins by knockout or submission, when you get an exciting finish, something big, it moves you two steps forward instead of just one. If I win by decision (though) I will be happy as well because a win is a win, that’s all that matters in the end. I want to get my hands raised. If it’s a knockout or a decision, to me, it won’t make a difference. I just want to win and a win will show that I’m on right track and that my career is back on the right path.”
Don’t miss Bellator 172 on Spike TV this weekend to see if Freire can return to his winning ways in San Jose. Complete audio of our interview is embedded in the video player above and complete Bellator MMA coverage can be found right here on fight night.
Source:: mma mania