Bellator featherweight champion Patricio Freire will put his title on the line Friday night against Daniel Weichel, but the five-round fight won’t headline Bellator 138.
"Pitbull" vs. Weichel will be the co-main event, while heavyweights Kimbo Slice and Ken Shamrock headline the Spike TV card in St. Louis, and the featherweight kingpin, while understanding the business decision, believes it’s wrong.
"There are a positive and a negative side about this," Freire told MMAFighting.com. "The negative side is that I am the champion and I deserve respect. If I’m on a card, I should be the main event. But I understand what they are doing. Bellator is getting more popular, exposing the brand and their fighters, so I get it.
"I always watched Kimbo Slice fight on YouTube, everybody knows who he is. He’s very popular. And I don’t even need to talk about Ken Shamrock. He fought that unforgettable UFC tournament, and he’s also very popular. This fight will bring a lot of attention to the promotion and for me. However, I still think the champion deserves respect."
Bellator MMA president Scott Coker believes Slice vs. Shamrock could beat ratings record, and that’s what Freire is counting on to become more popular.
"I understand the TV and the media, but I think it’s wrong. But I’m going there to work. I will do my thing and steal the show," he said. "Those who don’t watch me and will turn on the TV to watch Shamrock and Kimbo fight, will know me after. I will steal the show."
"Pitbull" was originally slated to defend his title against Georgi Karakhanyan, but the former WSOF champion was pulled from the bout with a knee injury. Weichel stepped in, but the Brazilian didn’t change anything in his training.
"They changed the opponent, but my strategy is the same," Freire said. "I think his chin asks for my punch. He fights wide open. He attacks well, but opens up a bit, and I can knock him out. I think that’s it."
The last time "Pitbull" knocked out a opponent was on Nov. 15, 2013, stopping Justin Wilcox in the first round, and the Brazilian misses it.
"I had no idea my last knockout was that long ago," said Freire, who stopped Daniel Straus via submission in his first title defense. "I just finished a fight by submission, so that shows I’m well rounded. If he wants to stand with me, I will. If he wants to go to the ground, I will try to finish him there too. But I like to knock people out better. I want to knock him out."
Weichel enters the bout with a 35-8 record with 21 submission victories, but Freire isn’t afraid of his ground game. In fact, "Pitbull" believes his numbers show Weichel hasn’t fought good competition throughout his MMA career.
"I didn’t see him submit any good opponent," Freire said. "I know he has a good jiu-jitsu, but I don’t know if he’s good enough to give me trouble on the ground. I’ve been doing this since I was a kid. I train with 20 great jiu-jitsu guys in the gym every day. I know he’s tough on the ground, and that that’s his best weapon, but I don’t think he offers me trouble on the ground."