Calling Patricio “Pitbull” Freire confident going into his fourth fight with featherweight champ Daniel Straus at Bellator 178 is an understatement.
The Bellator MMA lightweight title was on Patricio Freire’s mind going into his fight with Benson Henderson last year, but that wasn’t the main reason he moved up in weight. “Pitbull” wanted to prove that he was the pound-for-pound king, and to do that, he knew he had to fight in a higher weight class.
“The weight classes are there because the commission needs us to be in weight classes,” Freire told BloodyElbow.com’s The MMA Circus through a translator. “I would fight any human in the world. That’s why I fought Benson Henderson. He’s a world-class fighter, and I wanted to show the haters the level of fighter that I am. I’m the best in the world. Benson Henderson didn’t even touch me. If it wasn’t for the accident, I was dominating the fight. I showed that to the world; I showed that to the haters.”
Freire is focused on his upcoming featherweight title shot against longtime rival Daniel Straus in the Bellator 178 main event on Friday night, but the ex-titleholder is open to another 155-pound fight in the future — and making Bellator MMA history.
“I don’t think I can be a two-division world champion; I know that I can be a two-division world champion,” Freire said. “Before [Bellator MMA] was even on Spanish MTV, I was bringing wars to this organization. That’s what these guys like to see — a guy that never quits, a guy that’s always coming forward, a guy that’s not just trying to hold onto a belt and just survive and barely bring it home. I’m a guy who’s always trying to bring wars and finish the fight, whether it’s by knockout or submission.”
Freire has fought Straus three times already, but he has something to prove going into the fourth fight, as Straus took Freire’s belt in the third fight in November 2015. The series is still 2-1 for the Brazilian, but “Pitbull” is on a mission to reclaim what was his.
Despite the fact Freire lost to Henderson last summer by second-round injury TKO (and hasn’t fought since) and has only won once since the third Straus fight, he isn’t surprised Bellator MMA booked him vs. Straus yet again.
“The last fight was real close,” Freire said. “I mean, he outpointed me, according to the judges. Some people thought I won. He got the belt this time, but I’m not surprised, because if you look at my fight with Straus, that’s what people like to see. Not to discount the other guys, but they’re not on our level, as me and Straus. And that’s why we’re going at it for a fourth time.”
Freire said he lost to Straus a year-and-a-half ago because the American Top Team product’s game is very unique and bizarre, which caused some troubles for Freire. But the 29-year-old is adamant he’ll be able to get past that at Bellator 178 and secure a victory.
“Straus is a really tough fighter. He’s really strange and unpredictable. He throws wild punches from different angles. And that’s a tough fight to have against a guy when you’re fighting him for the fourth time,” he said. “But this time, I’m not going to let those wild punches and those angles interrupt me imposing my will. It interrupted me last time. But this time I’m going to impose my will, and you will see the new Patricio ‘Pitbull.’”
Freire is a mixed martial arts veteran, simply put. He started training Brazilian jiu-jitsu at the age of 10. He made his professional debut in March 2004; he was 16 years old. The upcoming fight with Straus will mark his 30th pro fight, and he hasn’t even reached the age of 30.
Freire, though, is confident he’s still getting better. He believes he’s recently evolved into the best 145-pound fighter in the world.
“I’m no longer a promising fighter. I’m the best in the world,” he said. “And that is my motivation — to prove to everybody that I’m the best, and to prove to the haters. I’ve been dominating here in Bellator. I had a couple losses, but I’m back, and [the Straus fight] is just an obstacle to overcome.
“Forget Jose Aldo vs. Max Holloway, this fight is to see who the best featherweight in the world is. We’re trying to finish these fights, we put on wars, we put on exciting fights; we’re not just trying to hold onto a belt and survive a fight and come out barely victorious. I’m on a new level, and I’m continuing to evolve. These guys aren’t on my level — nobody in the UFC or in Bellator. I’m the best fighter on the planet.”
This’ll be the last time Freire fights Straus ever again, according to the challenger.
“I am going to put him out of the weight class. This rivalry will be over,” he said. “It’s going to be one shot, one kill. Daniel Straus on the ground, my hand raised. He’s going to have to leave the weight class and go fight bigger and stronger guys to avoid fighting me again. There is not going to be a ‘Pitbull’-Straus 5.”