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Patricio Freire: Conor McGregor isn’t good enough to beat me or Jose Aldo

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Bellator featherweight champion Patricio Freire defends his title against Daniel Straus Friday night at Bellator 145 in St. Louis, but feels he’s not getting the attention he deserves a month before UFC stars Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor battle in arguably the biggest featherweight fight in the history of the sport.

"It’s the commercial aspect of the business," Freire told MMAFighting.com. "McGregor isn’t the best featherweight on the planet. The best in the world is Jose Aldo, alongside with me, and everyone knows that. I have the Bellator title, and I’m going into my third title defense, and Aldo has the UFC belt. McGregor is there to promote the sport, and that’s good."

Freire hopes fans would give him more credit, but understands how things work.

"Fans that got to this sport now don’t know who the best fighter is," he said. "The real MMA fan knows Fedor (Emelianenko) is the greatest of all time, but these fans now don’t even know who Fedor is. It’s something like that. In 100 years, when you open the MMA history book, my name is the one that will be there."

"Pitbull" doesn’t call McGregor an easy win, though. He thinks "The Notorious" is a flashy, dangerous striker, but that’s pretty much it.

"McGregor is a good fighter, has a flashy striking, but he’s not good enough to beat Aldo," Freire said. "I’m sure he will try to keep it standing and try to talk some trash during the fight. Aldo has a good chin, and it appears that McGregor does too, but McGregor is too slow for this division, and he has holes in his wrestling and ground game. Aldo is too patient, and a guy like that is way too dangerous.

"I don’t think it would be an easy fight for me or Aldo, he offers some dangers, but he’s not good enough so he won’t win," he continued. "He sells well, has some knockouts over guys that aren’t well known, but that’s not going to happen when you put him against the best."

While he looks for recognition, Freire has to worry about his upcoming title defense. Riding a seven-fight winning streak with five stoppages, the Brazilian featherweight looks to go 3-0 against Straus at the Scottrade Center.

"Pitbull" first fought the American Top Team product in 2011, beating Straus to win the season 4 featherweight tournament. Four years later, now as the 145-pound champion, Freire met Straus one more time. After three back and forth rounds, the Brazilian defended the belt with a rear-naked choke.

"He’s evolved since out first fight, and he’s better now, but I’ve studied him a lot," Freire said of Straus. "Anything can happen in a fight, but he’s a complete fighter and I have my strategy ready. He has good wrestling, has competed in jiu-jitsu recently, and I heard he worked hard on his boxing. We always put on great fights, and I expect another great fight Friday."

To avoid taking more damage like the last time they fought and come in better prepared, the Brazilian hired sports physical therapist Robert Forster, who worked with dozens of Olympic athletes, to change his training routine.

"I have a scientist in my camp now, and he changed everything I was doing," said Freire. "I always wanted to go full force in every training session, but I learned with him that I shouldn’t do that. I learned that I have to balance everything, and I did that for 10 weeks. I have more energy now, and I have no injuries going into this fight."

Confident that he will come out victorious at Bellator 145, "Pitbull" is gunning for new challengers following a trilogy he doesn’t think should have happened now. Not impressed with Goiti Yamauchi, who beat Isao Kobayashi at Bellator 144, Freire expects to face the winner of Daniel Weichel vs. Georgi Karakhanyan early in 2016.

"Goiti never beat a top fighter in the division, someone like Weichel, Straus or (Pat) Curran, but he managed to get some attention," "Pitbull" said. "He’s a skilled fighter, he’s good, but he says he’s the best featherweight in Bellator. He’s not. He lost to a guy I never heard before (Will Martinez Jr.). I’m the best in Bellator, and I will show him that when the day comes."

"It’s like a videogame. To get to the boss, you have to beat up the others. You have to get past Straus, Curran and Weichel to get to me," he continued. "A guy wins good fights, but loses when they face one of these three. But if Bellator wants to shake things up a little bit and bring me new challengers, I’m up to it. Weichel will fight Karakhanyan, and I believe the winner will be the next challenger."