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Pitbull: ‘The first champion Scott Coker will crown is Patricio Freire’

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Patricio Freire and Pat Curran will finally square off again for the Bellator featherweight championship, and the Brazilian changed a few things in his training camp and game plan for his second shot at the 145-pound title.

Coming off four straight wins under the Bellator banner since his loss to Curran in 2013, including three devastating knockouts, "Pitbull" looks to capture the belt at the main event of Friday’s Bellator 123 card at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

"The strategy changed. We will change some things in this fight, so the training was based on what we intend to do during the fight," Freire told

"The first fight had no clinch, just a few kicks. We basically did a five-round boxing fight. He said in interviews that he wants to use more aspects of the MMA game in this rematch, so I’m curious to see that and give the fans a great fight. I believe it’s going to be an explosive fight. He has changed his entire training, moved to another team, and so did I."

Freire, who trained for his recent bouts at Team Nogueira and his own gym in Natal, moved to Los Angeles to finish his training camp for Curran.

"I moved to California 45 days ago, and bring part of my team to help me here at Black House and at Anderson Silva’s Muay Thay College," he said. "We have great coaches here, like Kenny Johnson and Daniel Woirin, but I also bring the coaches that train me in Brazil to help me here, like Eric Albarracin. It’s the perfect mix."

Curran handled Freire his only loss in the last eight fights, and the fact that this bout was planned to happen a few times but ended up cancelled made the Brazilian dislike the featherweight champion even more. All the hate will stay outside the cage on Sept. 5, though.

"I won’t let my emotions affect me during the fight," he said. "I know it’s hard for everything that has happened and everything that has been said, but I’m a professional fighter for 10 years. I have negative feelings towards Pat Curran, but I can’t let it affect me during the fight. I won’t use my anger during the fight. If he thinks he will make get emotional during the fight, he’s dead wrong. This back and forth talk made me train more, and that’s it."

Bellator 123 kicks off the first season without Bjorn Rebney as the Bellator CEO, and "Pitbull" will miss some of the things new president Scott Coker removed. Freire was a fan of the tournament system to determine title challengers, but he admits that the changes might help promoting the fighters and the Bellator brand.

"I admired the tournament system because it brings some reality to the game," Freire said. "You had to beat everybody to get your title shot. It wasn’t something random, you got there because you beat everybody else.

"But this change will bring more quality to the event and help the fighters as well," he continued. "I’ve been fighting for a long time, I did some memorable fights and great knockouts, so I think it’s time for the whole world to know who I am."

Bellator 123 is headlined by the first title fight in the Scott Coker era.

"New president, new champion," "Pitbull" said. "The first champion Scott Coker will crown is Patricio Freire."

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