The featherweight duo battled for the first time in 2011, with “Pitbull" winning the 145-pound tournament and earning a shot at the Bellator belt. Four years later, then as the champion, Freire battled back from another tough fight to defeat Straus via fourth-round submission.
In Freire's third title defense, 10 months later, Straus finally avenged the losses and seized the featherweight belt to American Top Team. After taking a long time off due to injury, the champion will once again face the Brazilian, and Freire says it’s payback time at Bellator 178 in Uncasville.
"I always faced him in key fights,” Freire told MMA Fighting. "The difference now is that he’s he champion. We never fought before when he was in this position. What changes now is that I’m hungrier to get the belt back for my son.”
Claiming to be "in the best shape of my life,” Freire returns to the Bellator cage after fracturing his leg in a lightweight bout against Ben Henderson in August. “Pitbull" avoided surgery, but said he still spent 45 days in a wheelchair.
Now, having to face the same opponent for a fourth time — something he has never dealt with before in his career — Freire sees himself at an advantage against Straus, despite his recent injury.
"Every time I fight, it’s basically the same thing: beat and not be beaten,” Freire said. "I looked back at our three fights, looked as his other fights. We found several holes in my game and tried to close them, and grab the opportunities he gives me, too.
"He’s not in the same rhythm I am because he hasn't fought since our last fight in 2015, he's coming back from two hand surgeries, so we’re going to work on that. That’s the strategy, to focus on the openings he showed throughout his whole career."
As he enters his 30th professional fight, Freire, who turns 30 years old in July, warned Straus of what’s to come.
"I see myself a completely different fighter standing and on the ground,” Freire said." I think this Patricio beats up the other Patricios. I really am in the best shape of my life. I’ve never been so well trained before. I trained karate, taekwondo, boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu… I’m in great shape.
"This time, I’m really well prepared. If he defeats me, hats off to him, because he’s facing a really well-prepared fighter."