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Daniel Straus on Bellator title fight with 'Pitbull': 'I can walk through that guy'

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Bellator MMA

Daniel Straus knew from the moment he left the cage that night in May 2011.

Yes, he had just lost a unanimous decision to Patricio "Pitbull" Freire in Bellator's season four featherweight tournament final. But it was no blowout. Straus understood what he had to do the next time the two met.

That next time comes at Bellator 132 on Jan. 16 at Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, Calif., and the featherweight title is on the line. Since that loss to "Pitbull" in Lake Charles, La., Straus has won the belt and lost it. He's knocked out Justin Wilcox in just 50 seconds.

And frankly, he hardly thinks Freire, the current champion, will even be a challenge for him.

"I can walk through that guy," Straus told "I don't see him as a threat to me right now."

"Pitbull" would beg to differ. He has gone on a social media campaign recently, blasting MMA media sites for not ranking him as high as he believes he should be ranked among featherweights in the world. Straus is unconcerned with all that. He feels like he is one of the top-10 best fighters in the world, but doesn't care if you have him "ranked 28th."

"Now he has to go out and prove to everybody he's that whatever ranking he thinks he is," Straus said. "I don't have to prove anything to anybody. I know what I am."

Straus (23-5) said the first time the two met there were too many things running through his brain. Afterward, though, when everything was over, Straus knew "Pitbull" could be beat and he believes he knows how to do it. His confidence, which he has built training at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla., has grown exponentially over the last three years.

"It's the level of confidence," Straus said. "I had confidence against 'Pitbull,' but when I lost to him that fight all I was thinking about was, 'Alright, don't let him knock out you. He's been knocking out all these guys.' That's where my head was. Now, I'm not thinking about that. Can he knock out a lot of people? Yeah, true. That's the nature of the fight game. But my confidence in myself? It's not gonna happen.

"I'm not worried about what he's done. I'm not worried about who he's beat. I'm not worried about who he's knocked out. I'm not worried about how long he runs or how he trains or who he trains with or who's in a corner. Then? At the time I fought him? That's what I was worrying about. That's what I was thinking about.

Freire (22-2) is certainly a force to be reckoned with. The Brazilian striker has won five straight, including a unanimous decision victory to win the title from Pat Curran in September. The only losses on his record are to Curran and Joe Warren, the current Bellator bantamweight champion.

Straus has also beaten Curran. He won the belt from him via unanimous decision in September 2013, but then lost it right back to Curran last March. Straus was winning that fight, en route to retaining the title until Curran took his back and submitted him via rear-naked choke with just 14 seconds left in the fifth round.

"I don't think about it," Straus said. "It happened. Next time I see him, I'm gonna knock his ass out. It's not something that I need to dwell on."

A trilogy between the two is likely. Last year's bout was one of the best of 2014. Straus rebounded by knocking out Wilcox in under a minute in October.

"I'm not afraid to lose -- at all," Straus said. "If you look at my record, every time I've lost I've only got better and extremely better. So if I know I lost at that level, you can only imagine where I'll be when I come back. Look what happened. I knocked Wilcox out in 50 seconds."

Freire, of course, is not Wilcox. He's the Bellator champion and one of the best featherweights in the world, regardless of promotion. Straus is, too, and he believes fully that he will dominate Freire on Friday night. That line of thinking all started just seconds after their first fight three years ago.

"I knew exactly where I beat myself," Straus said. "I told myself right then and there, it's not going to happen again."