Patricio “Pitbull” Freire dispatched Pedro Carvalho with ease at Bellator 252, knocking out the Portuguese talent in little over two minutes in Uncasville, Conn., on Nov. 12. For the longtime Bellator star, the rivalry between Pitbull Brothers and SBG Ireland “is just getting started.”
Fighters from both teams have been firing back and forth at each other for months in interviews and over social media, and the first encounter inside the Bellator cage lasted only two minutes and ten seconds, with Pitbull successfully defending his featherweight crown.
Freire says that Carvalho took a page out of his teammate Conor McGregor’s book to promote the contest for almost a year, but failed to deliver.
“He followed it right, he was kind of copying what McGregor did in the start of his UFC career, and fought well in his fights and got to a title fight,” Freire said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “But there’s a catch: He’s not Conor McGregor and I’m not Jose Aldo. That’s when it went bad for him.
“His coaches always said in interviews that he’s as skilled as—or even more skilled than—Conor, he fights on both stances, so they bet heavy on him, and it ended like that. He thought he would do like Conor, get to a promotion and knock the champion out fast, but had a bad result instead. He got knocked out and learned a lesson.
“He was too focused on doing like Conor McGregor and get all the attention, sell the fight and talk crap—and that’s good for fights—but you can’t use your tongue to defend yourself in the cage.”
Freire wants to see more Pitbull Brothers vs. SBG matchups down the line in Bellator, like Patricky Freire vs. Peter Queally, Leandro Higo vs. James Gallagher, and Matheus Mattos vs. Brian Moore, and predicts “it’s going to be a clean sweep for Pitbull Brothers.
“We won’t lose one fight to SBG,” Freire said.
One special contest between both camps would be “Pitbull” Freire and Conor McGregor, the Bellator champion said. Both athletes managed to become featherweight and lightweight titleholders in their respective promotions. Freire knows it’s highly unlikely that the UFC agrees to co-promote with Bellator, but thinks someone as persistent as “The Notorious” could change that.
“I believe everything is possible if fans want it,” Freire said. “If someone as big as Conor McGregor campaigns for it, it happens. I’ve seen (John) Kavanagh say it’s one of his dreams to watch me fight McGregor, he said that after I beat Pedro, so it would definitely feel like revenge for them. I’m open for it.”
“I think McGregor is a super fighter, he has great striking, has gotten better with his wrestling, has good jiu-jitsu, and gets a bit tired after the first or second round,” he continued. “I have a strategy to beat him, and I think I would win. I won’t say I’d knock him out or submit him, but I know for sure my hands would be raised in the end.
“I think he would have been a tougher fighter before, but he doesn’t have much rhythm to face me anymore. I’m in such a strong rhythm now that no one can stop me.”
Freire has only lost twice as a featherweight over the past 10 years, avenging both defeats to Pat Curran and Daniel Straus. One of the most successful athletes in Bellator history, Pitbull holds wins over the likes of current bantamweight champion Juan Archuleta, recent UFC signee Michael Chandler, and future opponent Emmanuel Sanchez.
Other promotions have Alexander Volkanovski (UFC), Lance Palmer (PFL), Thanh Le (ONE), Salahdine Parnasse (KSW), Felipe Froes (ACA), Bubba Jenkins (Brave CF) as current featherweight titleholders, but the Brazilian believes he’s standing above all as the best 145-pounder on the planet.
“My domination is getting so strong that it’s starting to become much clearer now who’s the best featherweight, but I’ve been raising this debate for a long time,” Freire said. “I’m glad that the recognition is coming right now, but I’ve known that for a long time.”
As for who’s the greatest featherweight of all-time, that’s a debate in which Freire would still rank himself ahead of former WEC and UFC king Jose Aldo. Pitbull would also put himself amongst the best lightweights in the world, too, as he also holds that belt in Bellator.
“Aldo has had a great run in the past, defended many titles against tough guys,” Freire said. “We have to have both careers side by side and compare. I continue to dominate with the belt, moved up in weight and beat Michael Chandler, who’s one of the top fighters in the UFC today.
“The UFC has no lightweight champion today, so, in my mind, I’m probably at the top at lightweight, too. I’ll continue to face great challenges, stay on top for a long time, continue to evolve, and continue to prove with facts that I’m the best.”
Freire expects to return to the cage around January or February against Sanchez, who defeated Daniel Weichel earlier that night at Bellator 252 to advance to the tournament semi-final.
Freire is happy with his performance over Carvalho even though he was “wrong” in his prediction for the championship clash.
“I told (Carvalho) I’d submit him in under two minutes, but I was wrong. I knocked him out in 2:10,” Pitbull said with a laugh. “I thought he’d come to my legs (for a takedown) when I knocked him down, as he did, but he escaped from the guillotine. I expected to win this one quickly, and I expect to end the next one quickly, too.”
Freire says he watched most of the Sanchez-Weichel match while warming up for his main event bout, and was “surprised” how “easily” Sanchez went past the German featherweight.
“We have plenty of tape to watch since he fought for 25 minutes, so that’s great for me,” he said of an upcoming rematch with Sanchez. “But I haven’t seen much evolution from him. He’s basically the same fighter.”
Freire battled Sanchez for 25 minutes back in November 2018, winning via unanimous decision. Two of the judges scored it 48-47 in favor of the champion, who foresees a quick night in the office this time.
“I want to end it fast so I move on to the finals uninjured, and I know I can get it done,” Freire said. “He’s a durable fighter and can take a beating. The first fight, I spent months with my knuckles in pain for beating him so much, so I have to find an easier way to hurt him, hit him where it shuts him off for good.”
The other semifinal features A.J. McKee vs. Darrion Caldwell, and it goes down Thursday night at Bellator 253. “Pitbull” admits it would be a bigger deal for his resume to become the first to defeat McKee, but picks Caldwell to win a slow-paced contest—especially since McKee “slows down” after the first round, he said.
“A.J. McKee is the favorite, he’s very explosive, knocking everyone out fast, but, in my mind, it’s hard to fight a specialist, so I think Caldwell advances,” Freire said. “I think Caldwell will neutralize him, tie him up, take him down and win the fight. But it won’t be surprising if A.J. McKee wins, and I’d be glad to fight whoever wins.”