What's a champ-champ to do next? Bellator's Patricio Freire has a few ideas
The win also gave Freire a second title belt, making him part of the promotion’s exclusive two-member dual champion club. After Ryan Bader, who holds the 205-pound and heavyweight titles, Freire is now both featherweight and lightweight king.
Ruling over two divisions is not a bad addition to an impressive resume that already features quite a few promotional records. But it still isn’t enough for the younger “Pitbull” brother.
“I’d like to fight for the 135-pound belt,” Freire told MMA Junkie. “I want that achievement and to be unforgettable in this sport.”
This desire isn’t new. Freire told MMA Junkie about this ahead of his fight with Chandler and made sure to reiterate it afterward. He would need about three to four months to make the drop after bulking up to 170 pounds, Freire said, but still believes it’s entirely feasible. Now, it’s up to the powers that be to help make it happen.
“I’ve put in the request, I’ve made it public, everyone saw it,” Freire said. “But I depend on other things. If it doesn’t happen, it wasn’t for lack of asking. I’ve been asking this for more than five years. I emailed Bellator telling them, back then, that I’d fight anyone from 135 to 170 pounds.”
Just because this is Freire’s first option, however, it doesn’t mean it’s the only one. As it turns out, the two divisions he already rules also offer a few avenues. Allow Freire to unpack them.
First off, there’s the rematch with the champion he just dethroned. Chandler (19-5 MMA, 16-5 BMMA) is predictably quite on board with the idea, and here’s the good news for him: Although Freire (29-4 MMA, 17-4 BMMA) still believes the stoppage was fair after re-watching the fight multiple times (“more than 100” is his estimate), he’s not opposed to the idea.
“I see no problem,” Freire said. “I actually fight better at 155 than I do at 145.”
The caveat, though, is that he’s not so sure about doing it immediately.
“I think he deserves to wait a little,” Freire said. “The knockout was clear. It was clean. There were no controversies in the fight. He’s already locked up the 155-pound division several times. Bellator had to wait for him. So I think he deserves a taste of his own medicine. I don’t know. Let’s think. We’ll see the offers that come by.”
Freire’s path at lightweight is particularly interesting considering his mindset going into the Bellator 221 headliner. Speaking to MMA Junkie, he explained that the effort wasn’t about becoming champion; it was about Chandler’s head. The title meant so little that the plan was to vacate it. Becoming a simultaneous three-division champ, however, would involve having the other two belts. So, as long as that’s his intention, that means holding on to them.
If he were to vacate 155, he believes the promotion would probably have his brother, longtime lightweight contender Patricky Freire, fighting Ben Henderson for the vacant strap. But Henderson has just recently fought, and Freire is still recovering from wrist surgery.
So, basically, it’s a wait-and-see type of situation.
“I really don’t know what will happen in the division,” Freire said. “I claimed the belt and haven’t vacated it. I have it. So let’s see what happens.”
There’s someone in Freire’s original featherweight division who’s been dying to get a crack at him: A.J. McKee, remained undefeated with a win over former champion Pat Curran at Bellator 221. In fact, McKee (14-0 MMA, 14-0 BMMA) said after the win, he’d be willing to fight Freire for either one of his belts.
Freire, for his part, was clear in that he wasn’t impressed with what McKee presented against Curran. But that doesn’t mean he’s unwilling to face him. He just doesn’t know if that’s necessarily in the cards for the featherweight division.
“It seems A.J. McKee is the best-ranked, but I’ve heard there will be a grand prix in October and that all featherweights will join in,” Freire said. “So I don’t know what the order will be. If it’s going to be a random draw, if they’re going to go by rankings to choose who fights me first.”
Looking at a potential tournament lineup, Freire estimates he’s beaten 70 percent of the fighters who will be there – and already has a strategy in place for the remaining ones. He feels confident and prepared to beat all of them, including McKee.
“My vision is, if I face this guy, I will destroy him,” Freire said. “He has a few impressive knockouts; he has a few dazzling displays. But for me the only impressive performance he’s had in his life was against John Macapa. Because John Macapa is a tough, experienced guy, and he knocked him out in spectacular fashion. I take my hat off to that.
“But his other fights, for me, aren’t worth much. He knocked out a bunch of nobodies. Bellator fed him. They created a monster. He broke the record for most consecutive wins in the promotion – of course, he fought nobody. He did 13 fights until a tough guy. That’s easy. I never had it that easy. I always had it tough.”
At 31, Freire believes he’s currently at the best stage of his life. He’s got his injuries under control. He’s got his head in the right place. He feels both mature and fresh as a fighter. He feels, simply put, dominant.
As for what that will mean for Freire’s future in the Bellator cage, we’ll see. But as far as the present goes, he has one conviction.
“I’m the best featherweight in the world, and I have been for a while,” Freire said. “I’ve never been submitted. I’ve never been knocked out. I lost via split decision, that’s all. One fight (against Daniel Straus) I lost via decision, the other I lost due to injury. I’m daring. They say I’m a bantamweight, I fight at featherweight, and I went up to 155 a few times. I was successful. I beat the best 155er in the history of Bellator.
“I think I’m in a very good position today. That I’m Bellator’s pound-for-pound best, there’s no discussion. I have all the records. Most knockouts in the division, most submissions in the division, double champion. There’s no debating that. If you ask me, ‘Do you think you can beat (UFC champion) Max Holloway?’ I’m certain I can.”
For more on Bellator’s upcoming schedule, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.
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