Michael Chandler and Patricio Freire each seemed to be interested in fighting the other at Bellator 197 next month. That fight, though, is not going to happen.
Instead, Chandler will face Brandon Girtz on April 13 in St. Charles, Mo. How the proposed bout went up in smoke differs depending on who you ask.
Chandler told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour that “Pitbull” just doesn’t want to fight him. Freire said that Bellator altered the bout agreement without telling him and he refused the terms.
“Michael Chandler, stop lying,” Freire told his rival when he called into the show. “You are a mother f*cker. Sop talking shit. I am here, man. I fight everyone.”
Later on The MMA Hour, Bellator president Scott Coker came on to attempt to clear up the confusion.
Chandler was initially supposed to challenge Brent Primus for the lightweight title on the card, but Primus pulled out due to injury. When that happened, Coker said Bellator offered an interim title fight to Patricky Freire, the older brother of Patricio. Patricky fights at lightweight, while Patricio is the Bellator featherweight champion.
Coker said Patricky turned the fight with Chandler down due to injury, so Bellator brass thought, why not try to get the younger “Pitbull” Patricio to sign on? However, Bellator did not want an interim title for Patricio, because they didn’t want a situation where, if Patricio won, he might have to face his brother with the belt on the line.
“At the end of the day, we were not interested in putting two brothers in title contention in the same weight class,” Coker said. “That’s why we chose to not do it.”
Patricio Freire told Helwani that he only wanted the fight if it was a five-round contest for the interim lightweight title, because he is a championship fighter. If Bellator wasn’t going to make that happen, then he wouldn’t take the bout.
“I said, ‘No, I’m world champion. I fight for five rounds,’” Patricio said.
Chandler, meanwhile, is calling BS. He said when Primus fell off, he began immediately training for Patricio, because he was told by Bellator that would be the fight. The next morning, Chandler said he was told that the Patricio bout was off the table and Girtz would be the opponent.
Chandler and the “Pitbull” brothers have a long history. Chandler has beaten Patricky twice before and, after the last victory in 2016, he and Patricio almost got into it physically. The two have also exchanged plenty of barbs on social media and in interviews over the last few years.
“I get it,” Chandler said. “If I grew up with a brother that was bigger than me and better looking than me and got the chicks and he was better at everything than me and that hero of mine got absolutely trashed on national television and literally got his Mario and Luigi mustache knocked into the third row at the St. Louis Scottrade Center, I would never fight the man that he fought, either. I would never in a million years do it. So I don’t fault him for not wanting to fight me. It’s not that big of a deal. We’re good.”
Chandler said “Pitbull” is “all bark and no bite. “Iron Michael” added that he did accept a bout with Patricio for five rounds, but Bellator wasn’t interested in doing that if it wasn’t a title bout.
“I said, ’OK, I’ll fight him five rounds, I’ll fight him 10 rounds. I don’t care,’” Chandler said. “Whatever it is. I want to fight him, because he’s been talking all this trash for the last decade, basically, because I publicly humiliated his brother twice.”
For his part, Chandler is just happy someone was able to step in and he’s thankful to Girtz, an exciting veteran of Bellator’s lightweight division. That means his training camp in Florida away from his Tennessee home won’t be for naught.
“That was the great news, because you never want to spend all this time away from your family, all this money on training, all this money on travel,” Chandler said.