Patricky "Pitbull" Freire knocked out Tatsuya Kawajiri in just 70 seconds on Saturday to advance to the RIZIN lightweight grand prix semifinal. But he was close to pulling from the 155-pound tournament due to a knee injury.
Back to Brazil after his victorious trip to Osaka, Japan, the Bellator fighter told MMAFighting he injured his left knee during grappling training just 10 days before the fight, and he considered withdrawing from the quarterfinal contest.
“I heard a pop and stopped training immediately,” Freire said. “I knew it was hurt. I couldn’t train anymore. I was limping. I started physical therapy and working on things I was able to do in training without using my legs, but I was worried. It wasn’t serious, but I wasn’t 100 percent confident either. Knee injuries are scary.”
Freire says he considered pulling out of the fight because “the pain was too much in the first three or four days, and we didn’t know how I would feel closer to the fight.”
Indeed, “Pitbull” was in pain every time a training partner shot for a single-leg takedown in the gym, and that’s exactly what he expected Kawajiri to do. Luckily for him, he managed to win quickly with a flying knee, knocking out the Japanese veteran with his good knee.
On a six-fight winning streak now, which includes four knockouts, “Pitbull”, who doesn’t expect his left knee to be a problem for his next bout, will return on Dec. 31 against Luiz Gustavo, a fellow Brazilian striker who defeated Hiroto Uesako via doctor stoppage in Japan.
“I like to trade, he’s from a stand-up team as well, so we’ll see what happens there,” Freire said with a laugh. “That’s his style, that’s what he loves to do, and that’s what I love doing as well. I think it’s going to be an exciting fight for the crowd.”
The other semifinal features Johnny Case and Tofiq Musaev, who got past Roberto Satoshi and Damien Brown at RIZIN 19, respectively. But Freire is still on the fence on who he thinks advances to the tournament final.
“That’s a very difficult question,” he said. “Tofiq Musaev is very tough, dangerous, a complete fighter, but he has a flaw. I’ve seen flaws in all of their games, but I still don’t know who wins this one.
“In terms of strategy and intelligence, if they stay on the feet, I think (Musaev) wins, but the American can win if he puts the pressure on him. (Musaev) doesn’t react well when he’s under pressure.”