A week after announcing a June 3 bout at Croatian promotion Final Fight Championship, his first fight after being cut by the UFC in December, Souza was tagged in a tweet from a fan, asking if he would be down to replacing Patricio Freire’s opponent John Teixeira at Bellator 153.
"Patricio’s opponent got injured and he tweeted that he needed someone to step up, and this guy tagged me on Twitter," Souza told MMA Fighting. "I was playing video game with my teammates when I saw this tweet. I sent it to my manager, Glenn (Robinson). He liked the idea and contacted Bellator offering me to fight Patricio, but we couldn’t get the fight."
Henry Corrales replaced Teixeira at Bellator 153, and Souza returned to the gym to train for his upcoming fight in Croatia. Everything changed a day later, when Patricio’s brother, Patricky Freire, also needed an opponent when Derek Campos pulled out of Saturday’s Bellator 152 event with an injury.
"I forgot about it, but 24 hours later Glenn called me again saying ‘man, they just called me asking if you want to fight Patricky at 155 pounds in Italy. What do you think?’" Souza said. "I couldn’t believe it. I asked him if he was kidding me, and accepted it right away. I even joked that we threw the bait at one ‘Pitbull’ and got the other."
A featherweight for the past years, Souza sees a benefit in taking a short-notice fight at 155 pounds.
"It’s not a problem. In fact, it helps me because I don’t have to cut weight and all that. It’s fine," said Souza, who weighed 162 pounds when he was offered the chance. "I will be faster because it’s the weight I’m used to train at anyway, so it’s all positive for me. I took this fight on five days’ notice and I have no pressure over me. It’s wonderful."
"I was already training," he continued. "At Blackzilians, when you’re not under contract with a promotion like UFC and Bellator, you do a conditioning work to be in shape to fight at any moment. If an opportunity comes, you won’t waste it. I’m doing great, ready to go there and do my best."
Freire told MMA Fighting that he can finish a fight with one punch, but wanted to finally score his first submission under the Bellator banner. Souza, who went 3-1 in the UFC with a pair of knockout finishes, doesn’t think "Pitbull" will try to in Torino.
"I believe he changed his strategy immediately when he found out that he was going to fight me," Souza said. "This is the best opportunity for him to showcase his striking. Let him try to take me down to see what happens. But I invite him to stand and bang with me. We’ll see what happens. Anyway, I think his instinct will tell him to stand with me. It’s in his blood."
The Blackzilians fighter isn’t sure of his next move after Bellator 152. If he’s victorious Saturday, Souza might stay at 155 pounds and go after the belt, but coming back to featherweight is also a possibility.
And how about fighting Patricky’s brother next?
"Can you imagine that?" he said of fighting Patricio, a former featherweight champion at Bellator. "There are so many possibilities after this fight that I don’t even think about it. My focus is on Patricky. After that, the whole world will have doors open for me."
Back to the big leagues months after leaving the UFC, Souza guarantees he’s not upset with his former bosses for letting him go despite an 11-1 run in the past 12 fights, but still hopes to one day find out why he was released.
"No hard feeling. Quite the opposite, actually. I have to thank the UFC for putting me in another level. Life goes on," Souza said. "I wasn’t happy with the fact that I was cut with no explanation. They said ‘win a couple fights and you will be back’, but I’ve seen fighters go 10-0 or 12-0 and never come back. I didn’t want that hope. And now that I’ve signed with Bellator, that’s in the past."