When talking about the featherweight division, the names that come up the most always seem to be Aldo and McGregor, and with good reason. However, there is a fighter who absolutely belongs in the same breath as those 2 names, and his name is Patricio “Pitbull” Freire. At only 28 years old, the Bellator featherweight champion is 24-2 with both of his losses being controversial split decisions. Currently on a 7 fight win streak with 5 finishes in that span, the champion will defend his belt for the 3rd time at Bellator 145 on November 6th. I got the opportunity to speak to him regarding his upcoming fight, as well as his opinion on fighter rankings, his feud with Georgi Karakhanyan and his potential future in MMA.
The first thing that “Pitbull” says in our interview shows just how focused he is going into this fight, a simple “How are you doing today?” was answered with, “I’m good, I’m strong, a strategy has been set and I hope it works.”
The champion has been critical of the media in the past, saying that the MMA media has a bias towards fighters that fight in the UFC and doesn’t give the same respect to fighters such as himself strictly due to the organization they fight for. I asked if he thought the media has improved since his last comments and he didn’t hold back on his opinion, although his outlook on it seems to have changed slightly.
“It doesn’t matter what you do outside the UFC, people will never rank you first. You will never be the best if you’re not in the UFC. I think some of them are even paid by the UFC, so the rankings stopped mattering to me. I’m focusing on myself, my career and important stuff. I know I’m the best and I don’t need rankings to know who I am. Rankings don’t pay my bills.”
This will be Freire’s 3rd title defense, but it will also be his 3rd fight with challenger Daniel Straus, who the champion has beaten in both of their previous meetings, including a win by rear naked choke in the 4th round of their last fight (Freire’s first title defense) in January of this year. When asked what he expected from fight number 3 he said:
“The 1st fight I dominated him, I didn’t have many problems dictating the action. The 2nd fight was pretty close, he really wanted the title and had improved a lot in his striking. But I was hit by some illegal strikes, I don’t think he really meant it but it affected me and messed up my plan and caused some injuries. I was able to overcome that and get the win. I hope that this time he comes to fight clean and if he does that then I’m confident I will be able to do my job well and return with my title.”
The champion’s 2nd title defense in June was originally supposed to come against Georgi Karakhanyan but Karakhanyan tore his ACL and was replaced by Daniel Weichel who Freire knocked out in the 2nd round. Freire and Karakhanyan have gone back and forth on social media and video emerged of a heated confrontation between the two at a poster signing at Bellator 141. Karakhanyan is currently scheduled to fight Daniel Weichel in December. When I asked “Pitbull” about that potential fight, he brushed it off by saying,
“My focus is entirely on Straus, he (Karakhanyan) has a fight coming up and we have no idea what might happen but my focus is entirely on Straus and defending my title.”
Finally I asked about his long-term future in MMA, at only 28 years old he seemingly has a good amount of time left in the game. I asked if he saw himself staying at featherweight or the potential of moving up or down in weight class. I also asked if he would ever consider fighting his brother, Bellator lightweight Patricky Friere, if the opportunity presented itself. The champion seemed to have a very practical view on both matters when he said,
“I’ve said a few times already that weight class doesn’t matter to me, I’m a real fighter and I’m here for the challenge, it doesn’t matter what the other guy weighs. I’m up to anything. Regarding fighting my brother, I don’t see why not, I would fight him. We do it every day for free ever since we were kids so why not do it for a huge sum of money?”
It would appear that the champion is focused and determined heading into his 3rd title defense. He’s very familiar with his opponent and obviously has a strategy in mind that he wants to implement. He says that he no longer cares about what the rankings say, but I can’t help but think that he’s fighting with a chip on his shoulder and is planning to use this match up to prove exactly why he deserves every bit as much respect as any fighter in the world. Be sure to tune-in to Bellator 145 on November 6th to watch one of the baddest men on the planet defend his title.
Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet
Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.
“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”
Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.
“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”
Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.
“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”
Refereeing’s Loss is Bellator’s Gain
When former Bellator color commentator Jimmy Smith left the organization last week, not many expected MMA veteran referee, John McCarthy, to be his replacement. There is little doubt that McCarthy will make an excellent color analyst. However, it’s hard not to be disappointed that the sport is losing one of the best and most experienced referees.
McCarthy has been part of the fabric of MMA and the UFC in particular, since 1993. He was hugely influential in creating and enforcing the rules of the cage that have changed MMA into the respected sport it is today. Back in early to mid-nineties, the ‘sport’ was fairly labeled by some critics as ‘human cockfighting’. Without McCarthy as an instrumental player in changing regulations and rules, who knows where the MMA would be today.
What we have grown to appreciate most about McCarthy over the past two decades is how simple he makes this tough job look, which can be credited to years of experience and dedication. To the layman, it would appear that it’s a simple as stopping the fight when a fighter is knocked out or submitted. MMA fans know there’s a lot more to it than that.
It’s difficult to remember a moment in recent memory where McCarthy has let a fight go too long, or even stopped a fight too soon. His timing is almost always perfect. His composure and rationale in the cage are unmatched. When McCarthy is the third man in the Octagon we know the fighters are in safe hands.
It’s worth reiterating how important McCarthy is in maintaining the standard of referring and judging in the sport. The sport of MMA is still very young and is growing rapidly and so are the rules. The former LAPD police officer created his own training school known as C.O.M.M.A.N.D. The course teaches the next generation of MMA referees and judges, and there is no better person to be educated by. Referees must complete this or a similar course run by Herb Dean to be licensed as an official.
Former fighter Frank Trigg, who has pursued refereeing since his career wound down, has taken the course. He recently appeared on The MMA Hour to explain just how tough C.O.M.M.A.N.D is. It took Trigg three attempts to pass, emphasizing just how difficult a career path officiating is.
While ‘Big John’ as he is more affectionately known hasn’t completely left refereeing, he will likely no longer be seen in the cage at the biggest shows. The pool of referees trusted with the big title fights is rather small. Normally McCarthy and Herb Dean are tasked with the important title fights.
It’s not all bad that McCarthy is stepping aside for the time being. The likes of Mark Smith, Jason Herzog, and Chris Tognoni have all shown they are capable officials. There is now a great opportunity for them to move into the main event slots. There are also the likes of Yves Lavigne, Mike Beltran and Marc Goddard who can be trusted to referee the big fights.
While it is surprising, it’s understandable that McCarthy is looking for new career ventures. It is no secret that MMA referees are poorly paid relative to other sporting officials. Las Vegas often discloses referee pay when assignments are announced. The pay tends to range between $1000 and $2000 for the night. Trigg explained on The MMA hour that there is no money in becoming a referee and that most also have full-time jobs. McCarthy’s passion for the sport of MMA has been the biggest incentive for refereeing. It is totally understandable that he would take a bigger payday and put all his knowledge of the sport to good use in the commentary booth.
McCarthy will almost certainly be as dedicated to his new job as he was with his refereeing duties. He can also offer a fascinating insight into the officiating of a fight that nobody else can offer. If there wasn’t already an excuse to watch Bellator 192 on January 20th, headlined by Rory MacDonald vs Douglas Lima, then there most definitely is now.
Chael Sonnen vs. Rampage Jackson the new main event at Bellator 192
Bellator is getting ready to kick off their heavyweight grand prix at Bellator 192 on January 20th. The grand prix gets started with two former UFC greats who have now set their sights on Bellator gold, Chael Sonnen and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson. Today it was announced that this heavyweight matchup of two ordinarily light heavyweights will be getting the bump up to the main event. The reason for the change has not been announced.
Can confirm via @BellatorMMA President Scott Coker, the main event of #Bellator192 will be Chael Sonnen vs Rampage Jackson with Douglas Lima vs Rory MacDonald WW Title Fight as the co-headliner. #MMA @sonnench
— Steven Muehlhausen (@SMuehlhausenMMA) January 12, 2018
The main event was scheduled to be the much anticipated welterweight matchup between champion Douglas Lima and former UFC title challenger Rory MacDonald. Bellator has been promoting this event as such the welterweight title fight would get top billing. Earlier this week the fighters involved in the main and co-main event were part of a conference call. At the time there was no mention of the switch to the lineup.
This fight between Sonnen and Jackson is just the first in a series of heavyweight fights leading up to the crowning of the Bellator heavyweight championship in December. There has been great interest shown in this heavyweight grand prix between fans and media, which could attribute to the last minute change.
Lima vs. MacDonald will now serve as the co-main event on January 20th. Lima, who has been with Bellator since 2011 has been accused of being overlooked by the organization. He has held the welterweight title since November 2016 and perhaps has not gotten the showcases he deserves. This event will take place at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
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