Daniel Straus believes has matured since his first meeting with Patricio Freire. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
The first time Daniel Straus stepped into the Bellator cage with Patricio Freire, he made the mistake of buying into his opponent’s hype.
The result: A disappointing unanimous decision defeat in which Straus says all his Brazilian foe did “was push out each round on me.” Straus’ loss to Freire occurred more than three years ago at Bellator 45. Considering the amount Straus has grown since then, especially mentally, it feels like it’s been a lot longer.
“The second I stepped out of that cage I got better, matured just because of what happened inside that cage. Every time that I’ve lost, the majority of the time was because I beat myself. That again was one of those cases where I had beat myself,” Straus told Sherdog.com. “I was so hyped up on his highlight reels and how Bellator talked about him. That’s all they ever wanted to talk about was how he was knocking all these guys out. At the time that was my biggest fight in my career. Then I get out of the cage and I realize, why am I worried about that?”
In one sense, it’s hard to fault Straus’ line of thinking. At the time, Freire was coming off back-to-back stoppages of Georgi Karakhanyan and Wilson Reis. Since then, the Brazilian’s reputation as a knockout artist has only grown, with finishes of Jared Downing, Diego Nunes and Justin Wilcox. Most recently, he repeatedly rocked and dropped Pat Curran en route to a five-round unanimous decision to capture the featherweight crown at Bellator 123.
Nonetheless, Straus’ past experience with the promotion’s reigning 145-pound king has taught him there is nothing to fear. The two men will square off once again at Bellator 132 on Friday night at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif. The evening’s main card airs on Spike TV beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
“He didn’t hurt me. He didn’t do anything to hurt me. I realized it was myself that kept me from winning that fight,” Straus said. “It was just learning that and that was the biggest thing. That has gone with me in many a fight. You can’t worry about the people across from you as far as how they look or what everyone’s talking about. That’s not important to me.”
What is important to Straus is retrieving the belt that he lost to Curran in heartbreaking fashion at Bellator 112 last March. Step 1 in that process was a 50-second demolition of Wilcox in October, a bout that showed that Straus is far more than a one-dimensional fighter.
“Everybody only feels like I’m a grinder and all this bulls--t. I have a lot of capabilities. I just need to start showing them more,” he said. “People that have seen me fight for a long time do know this. It’s just the new people. It’s getting bigger and people are just now starting to see me. …I can hit hard. I can submit guys. I can do as I please inside the cage.”
Straus has proven himself to have a reliable chin: His last knockout loss came against Curran more than five years ago on the regional circuit. If Freire is unable to hurt him in striking exchanges, the Ohio native believes it will start to mess with his opponent’s head.
“[If] I’m giving you everything I have, you’re not budging or I’m not even hitting you, that’s gonna be frustrating. It’s gonna take the wind out of you because you’re just going even harder to try to do it,” Straus explained. “And it’s gonna be frustrating because your game plan is not working, and you have to switch to something else, something you weren’t prepared to work on. So it’s definitely going to affect him.”
In Bellator’s featherweight division, the pecking order appears to be Freire, Straus, Curran -- then everyone else. However, as a once-perennially overlooked fighter, Straus doesn’t see things that way. Eventually, the featherweight Big Three will have to do more than keep fighting each other.
“Do I feel like I’ll see these guys again? Yeah, for sure. They’re some of the best fighters in the world,” he said. “But I don’t feel like it’s gonna be a round robin because people fail to realize there’s other names in the featherweight division that are very talented fighters.
“Me personally, I’ve kept my eyes on them because I know what it’s like. I know what it’s like to have nobody mentioning your name. When they get their shot, they’re gonna come to haul ass. I’m one of those guys that sits back and I notice it and I realize it. I’m not just worried about Pat and Pitbull. There’s other tough guys in the [division] that are gonna start making their own names. I’m ready to face them too.”
In the meantime, Straus is still in the midst of a rebuilding process that began following his most recent loss to Curran. Considering his lofty aspirations, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be complete anytime soon.
“It’s still ongoing. I can’t stop rebuilding, especially right now. I’m at a point where I can gain a belt back and defend a belt for a long term time, so I have to keep rebuilding,” he said. “I can’t just allow myself to stop here. I can’t allow myself to stand still right now; I’ve got to keep pushing forward. It’s not just being good. I want to be great.”