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Patricky ‘Pitbull’ out to capture Rizin, Bellator lightweight belts

Patricky Freire (Bellator)
Bellator's Patricky Freire faces Tatsuya Kawajiri at Rizin 19 in October.

Patricky Freire has chased the Bellator lightweight title for years. But he’s put that on hold now that his brother Patricio Freire has taken the belt from Michael Chandler. Now, he’s focused on being part of the Rizin lightweight grand prix, which kicks off on Oct. 12 in Osaka, Japan.

The older “Pitbull” has a new goal in mind.

Despite the good relationship between Bellator and Rizin, Freire didn’t think it was possible to win and keep a title in one continent and compete for other promotion. But then Kyoji Horiguchi proved him wrong by winning the bantamweight title in both organizations, and he decided to use the Japanese champ for inspiration.

“I’ve always had the dream of fighting in Japan, under those rules,” Freire told MMA Fighting. “When someone said I could win both belts and keep them, I admit never thought about it before. I can win the Rizin belt and then go to Bellator and win that belt, as well, if it’s vacant.”

Patricio enters the Bellator featherweight grand prix later this month and won’t mind vacating the Viacom-owned promotion’s lightweight title if his brother gets to fight for it.

“He’s holding it for me,” Patricky said with a laugh. “He’s keeping it warm (and) keeping it clean before I come back.”

A random draw was held on Sept. 20 to determine the tournament match-ups, and Freire was paired up with Japanese veteran Tatsuya Kawajiri. “Pitbull” watched tons of fight footage to prepare for the chance of competing multiple times in one night — with soccer kicks and stomps allowed — with a win over Kawajiri.

“I spent weeks watching Pride and Rizin videos,” Freire said. “I’m watching the best Pride fights, watching ‘Shogun’ (Rua), ‘Minotouro’ (Nogueira), Wanderlei (Silva), the guys that loved doing that, and then I watch Rizin fights, the lightweights, to study them and see what they like to do.”

The other lightweight grand prix matches are Tofiq Musaev vs. Damien Brown, Johnny Case vs. Roberto Satoshi and Luiz Gustavo vs. Hiroto Uesako.

It’s been almost a decade since Freire fought with soccer kicks and stomps allowed. He misses it, even though he admits it’s “a big risk, way more dangerous.”

“No one will say it’s healthier – it’s not,” Freire said. “There was a debate back in the day if soccer kicks were less harmful than elbows, but I think soccer kicks are way worse. But I miss it. Sometimes you feel like throwing a kick; I’m afraid it might happen in a regular fight when I’m fighting someone I hate and I want to do it. But now I can.

“I see a lot of Japanese fans on Twitter asking for more soccer kicks, saying they miss it, that fighters are respecting too much nowadays. I think (fighters) are so used to the current ruleset, they are scared to throw soccer kicks.”

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