Bellator MMA champion Patricio Freire has established himself as the top featherweight in the sport outside of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and believes he could more than hold his own against reigning UFC titleholder Jose Aldo.
“Jose Aldo has been the champion for a long time,” Freire told Sherdog.com. “Before he won the UFC featherweight title, he was the champion in the WEC. He’s never lost in a long time. A lot of it is tradition, and most people think of him when they think of the featherweights. That would be a five-round fight. Both of us would come out very injured. The techniques would be equal, the strengths would be equal and it would come down to who has the stronger spirit. That would be me.”
Freire thinks he would also have an edge against Conor McGregor, the man who will challenge Aldo for the featherweight crown at UFC 194 in December.
“I have a different opinion of Conor McGregor than basically everybody else,” he said. “I think he is a very funny guy. He does some crazy things and talks a lot of trash, but it’s fun; but when it comes time for fight time, he’s all business. He leaves all that joking personality aside and becomes a true fighter. I think he’s a very dynamic fighter with his striking. His kicks are pretty good and his vision is pretty good, but he shows a lot of holes in his game. If I fought him, I would attack those holes in his game. It would be a good fight and I would probably get hit, but I would probably knock him out standing or submit him on the ground.”
Hypothetical bouts aside, Freire has his own challenges through which to navigate. “Pitbull” will defend his featherweight title against Daniel Straus -- a man he has already beaten twice -- in the Bellator 145 main event on Friday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
“I know exactly how it’s going to go down,” Freire said. “Straus has become a very well-rounded fighter. His boxing has gotten better, and he’s kicking a lot more. He’s increased his level of violence. He’s always been a good wrestler, and he always competes in jiu-jitsu tournaments. I know he’ll try to come and overwhelm me and pressure me, but I know what to do and I have my own game plan.”
Some have lamented the fact that Straus received another crack at Bellator gold so quickly, especially with the number of other qualified contenders at 145 pounds. Freire defeated the American Top Team rep 10 months ago, submitting him with a fourth-round rear-naked choke at Bellator 132. “Pitbull” blames the logjam that exists in Bellator’s featherweight division.
“This weight class is very good right now, and he’s a very deserving competitor,” Freire said. “There are no other guys in the weight class that deserve a title shot ahead of him. Right now, Straus is number two, and I know how this all works. I think if I wasn’t there, he would be the champion.”