Patricio Freire was hoping to make history and go for a third Bellator belt in 2019, but it looks like the company isn’t so interested in booking that right now.
The featherweight king moved up to lightweight to dethrone Michael Chandler in just 61 seconds in May. Shortly after the win, “Pitbull” informed Bellator officials he was willing to cut all the way down to 135 pound to challenge Kyoji Horiguchi, who became the Rizin and Bellator bantamweight champion with a second win over Darrion Caldwell earlier this month.
“I requested a title shot at 135 pounds against the winner of that fight,” Freire told MMA Fighting, “But it appears to me that Bellator has no intention doing that. What’s next for me now is the 145-pound grand prix, which starts in October.”
It’s still unclear who will be part of the upcoming Bellator featherweight tournament, but “Pitbull” guarantees he’s 100 percent in. In a similar situation to Rory MacDonald’s run in the welterweight grand prix, Freire will be putting his belt on the line every step of the way.
Freire doesn’t know who his first opponent will be, but was told that “everyone will be in the grand prix”. With names like Pat Curran, Daniel Straus, A.J. McKee, Juan Archuleta and Henry Corrales as possibilities, he has ideal opponents in mind.
“My (first) opponent has to be someone that deserves a title shot. At least the first one — the second one will depend on the tournament bracket,” Freire said. “If you’re taking rankings into consideration, three guys are deserving, in my opinion: Corrales, A.J. McKee and Archuleta. They are on a good winning streak. I think it should be one of them. I’d rather fight someone new now, to not get a rematch right away.”
“I’ve already beat Henry Corrales, but he was a tough one. They are all tough,” he continued. “People might say A.J. McKee is the most dangerous one for the wins he has, but he’s fought many average fighters, some weak fighters, so I don’t know. They are all dangerous. There’s no fool there.”
“Pitbull”, who’s currently riding a four-fight winning streak, has added a good name to his camp ahead of the 145-pound tournament: Everton Lopes, who retired last year as a professional boxer after sustaining shoulder injuries to focus on a career as a trainer. Lopes won two Pan-American medals and became world champion as an amateur in 2011 before going 6-0 as a professional under the Golden Boy Promotions banner.
Freire now holds two belts simultaneously in Bellator, but doesn’t plan on vacating the lightweight gold just yet. At least not while his brother, lightweight contender Patricky Freire, competes in the upcoming Rizin 155-pound tournament later this year in Japan.
“My brother against Ben Henderson would be a legit title fight if it was vacant,” Freire said. “I won’t vacate it since he’s with Rizin now, and it wouldn’t be fair to have a title fight without him. If Bellator suggests that, I won’t vacate it.”