Patricky Freire has a long track record of bouncing back from defeat. However, “Pitbull” will need to dig a little deeper to recover from his most recent setback.
Freire was obliterated by a perfect Michael Chandler right hook at Bellator 157 in a showdown for the vacant Bellator MMA lightweight championship on June 24 in St. Louis. The Brazilian claims to have gotten past the knockout, which cost him a two-fight winning streak and resulted in a missed opportunity to capture promotional gold.
“I was disappointed in how that fight turned out, but I’m already over it. It’s in the past,” Freire told Sherdog.com. “I’ve moved in, and I’m just looking forward to my next fight.”
The two-time tournament finalist will return to the cage in a critical showdown with former Strikeforce champion Josh Thomson in the Bellator 172 co-main event on Saturday at the SAP Center in San Jose, California. Thomson has been one of the sport’s most successful lightweights for more than a decade, thanks to his well-rounded skills and no-quit attitude. Their clash has the potential to be one of the most memorable fights of the first half of 2017.
“I don’t know how this fight won’t live up to the hype,” Freire said. “He’s probably going to try and take me down and use his ground-and-pound, but I’m not going to let him do that. I will try to get him in the clinch and use my weapons against him, but it won’t be easy. I see us both coming forward and trying to knock the other guy out, and it’s going to be a war. It will be impossible for this fight not to be exciting. I am excited for it.”
Thomson has won back-to-back bouts since signing with Bellator in 2015. The 38-year-old American Kickboxing Academy representative’s career includes victories over Nate Diaz, Gilbert Melendez, Gesias Cavalcante and K.J. Noons. Freire believes he knows what to expect from “The Punk.”
“He’s a very tough fighter, a true veteran,” Freire said. “He likes to push the pace, he’s good in scrambles and he’s not afraid to stand and bang with people or take the fight to the ground. He does everything, a complete fighter. If he does everything he’s good at, this will be a very exciting fight, but if he decides to play it safe, I’ll chase him down.”
Neither man can afford a loss at this point. Thomson will enter the cage on a two-fight winning streak but turns 39 in September and has an extensive injury history. Freire, meanwhile, does not want to take another step back in the lightweight division. Even so, he does not view it as a must-win situation for either of them.
“I don’t see it that way,” said Freire, who sports 11 finishes among his 16 professional victories. “Josh is still in his prime, in my opinion, and he’s still one of the best. This is a great challenge for us both, and I don’t think this is a do-or-die fight for either of us. It’s a fight that really matters. Josh still has his moments, and he shines in the spotlight. People still get excited to see him, and I feel as though I have many years ahead of me, so no, this is not that type of fight.”
Freire puts little stock in the fact that the Ultimate Fighting Championship did not retain Thomson’s services after he went 1-3 during a four-fight stint with the promotion from April 20, 2013 to July 15, 2015. All three of his losses were decisions, and two of them were contentious split verdicts against Bobby Green and Benson Henderson.
“He had some of those losses in the UFC, but some of those losses were bad decisions,” Freire said. “I don’t think the judges did a good job and he suffered losses because of them, but he came over to Bellator and has looked very good.”
Freire has already lost twice to Chandler, the current Bellator lightweight champion, and gives an honest assessment about his place in the pecking order at 155 pounds.
“I think fighting Josh is going to be a great test for me, and if Bellator gives me another title shot after I beat him, that’s great,” he said, “but since I lost to Chandler and I have lost to him before, I think Bellator should have somebody else fight him first. I think the audience would want to see something different and see another person fight him. That would only be fair, and there are some other more deserving fighters who are in light right now; but if they do decide to have me fight Chandler again, I would be grateful for the opportunity.”