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Patricky Freire wanted to take Bellator belt away from Will Brooks, but welcomes chance to beat up Michael Chandler

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Five years after his Bellator debut, two-time lightweight tournament finalist Patricky Freire is finally fighting for the belt, but it’s not exactly the scenario he wanted.

"Pitbull" campaigned for a shot at lightweight kingpin Will Brooks for over a year, but the American Top Team talent ended up leaving the promotion to sign with the UFC. With the belt vacant, the promotion matched Freire versus former champion Michael Chandler for the title on June 24, but the Brazilian really wanted to become champion by beating Brooks.

"I don’t like him," Freire told MMA Fighting. "I wanted to beat Will Brooks up again and take the belt away from him."

Freire wasn’t surprised with the news that Bellator let Brooks go, and says that many people who work for the promotion didn’t like the now-UFC lightweight.

"We know what happens because we’re inside the promotion, but I wasn’t sure. We knew that anything could happen," he said. "Many people don’t like him because he’s too cocky. And I’m not the only one saying that. I know a lot of Bellator employees that say that, too. I kind of expected that already, but I wasn’t sure."

Freire fought twice in 2016, knocking out Ryan Couture in January and defeating Kevin Souza by decision three months later. "Pitbull" returns to action two months after his last win, and that’s exactly what he wanted.

"I was already training because I knew that, based on my last wins, something big was about to happen," he said. "This title shot would come sooner or later. After win my win over Kevin Souza, I went to the United States to prepare for it, and trained wrestling focused on my next opponents.

"Wrestling is the key to beat Michael Chandler," he continued. "Stop his takedowns and surprise him. He thinks he’s going to take me down, but he’s not. I’ve been training hard since I lost to him, focusing on my wrestling, and always watching and studying his fights. He has evolved a lot, has more experience in five-round fights, has been in a few wars, but he lost three of the four fights that went past the third round. That’s something I’m looking at."

Chandler enters the title bout coming off wins over David Rickels and Derek Campos, and Freire says that his opponent’s recent results in five-round fights raise a red flag.

"He criticized me a lot, always talked about my conditioning, but I don’t think he realized that. After the second round, he just survives," said the Brazilian. "He always gets beat up and does nothing in the third round. He’s really dangerous in the first and second rounds, but after that his performance goes down.

"I’ve never fought in a five-round fight before, it’s going to be a new experience, but I’ve been training for five-round fights in my last camps. But even though I trained for five rounds, I know that I was only fighting for three rounds. It’s different. It’s a five-round fight now, and I’m ready for it. I’m feeling great."

"Chandler is not coming in a good phase," he continued. "He just won two fights, but he was coming off three losses in a row. He lost twice to Will Brooks, including a knockout, and to Eddie Alvarez. He’s still trying to recover. He’s confident because he just won two fights, but I know I’m better than him now. This is my moment. His moment has passed."

Freire, who holds a 9-6 record under the Bellator banner, expects to be the underdog in the co-main event of Bellator 157, and gets extra motivation from Chandler’s tweets.

"I know I won’t be the favorite," "Pitbull" said, "but he’s talking like he’s the champion already. I saw on his Twitter, someone asking him who’s next after this fight and he’s mentioning a few names. Let him think like that, that he already won. I will punish him. I will force those words down his throat.

"I expect to win by knockout. I will frustrate him. He will get tired, frustrated when I defend his takedowns, and I will hurt him bad. If I don’t knock him out, he will be messed up after the fight."