Patricio Freire is not too fond of Conor McGregor. | Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
Regardless of what the various media rankings might say, Patricio Freire believes he is one of the best -- if not the best -- featherweights in the world.
Freire, Bellator MMA’s reigning 145-pound king, faces Daniel Straus in the Bellator 132 headliner at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif., on Friday night. “Pitbull’s” title defense occurs the same weekend that rising star Conor McGregor makes his bid for a UFC featherweight title shot against Dennis Siver in Boston.
According to Freire, it will be a revealing few days, especially when it comes to the state of the featherweight rankings.
“You’ve got Conor McGregor that’s ranked higher than me, and he’s nobody. He’s just a s--t talker,” Freire said on the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “You’ll see the difference between me and him this weekend. You guys got [Ricardo] Lamas and [Dustin] Poirier ahead of me. That’s crazy. I’m one of the best in the world. [Jose] Aldo’s in front of me, for now. He’s defended his belt seven times. He’s in front of me for now, but I’m the best in the world.”
It appears that the Brazilian will enter the fight against Straus with something of a chip on his shoulder. Freire is ranked No. 10 among all featherweights in Sherdog.com’s most recent divisional poll, which places him behind McGregor, who is No. 7, as well as eight other featherweights who compete in the UFC.
Freire does not subscribe to the notion that there is a huge disparity between the talent in the UFC and Bellator. While he acknowledges that the Las Vegas-based promotion is the premiere MMA outfit in the world today, he is confident his employer can catch up.
“The UFC’s been in this game for 20 [years], so they have a [jumpstart] on Bellator, but Bellator is getting bigger every day. We have a new president; we’re on Spike TV; we’re on Fox Sports Brazil in Brazil,” he said. “We’re on a great platform and before it was Pride that was better than the UFC. Now the UFC is better, but who knows what’s gonna happen tomorrow? The future is not set and maybe one day Bellator can be No. 1 in the world.”
Freire previously defeated Straus at Bellator 45 via unanimous decision in May 2011. The 27-year-old Brazilian says that Straus has improved since their first meeting, but that could work against the Ohio native on Friday night.
“He’s a little bit more dynamic,” Freire said. “He takes a little bit more risks on his feet, and that’s good for me because that’s gonna lead to my victory.”
In 24 professional outings, Freire has only tasted defeat twice -- split decision setbacks to Pat Curran and Joe Warren. He is confident that his record speaks for itself, but eventually he expects to receive more recognition as more fans come to appreciate his fighting style.
“The fans will come. Look at some of the best fighters in the world: Fedor [Emelianenko], Anderson Silva, even Mike Tyson. They didn’t speak a lot,” Freire said. “They hurt their opponents in the ring; they were very violent, and my type of violence is what’s gonna bring the fans to come watch me.”
While Freire is primarily focused on his bout with Straus, he admittedly wouldn’t mind seeing McGregor get his hand raised in Boston two days later. The reason? Then the Irishman would be paired with UFC featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo later this year, a matchup that Freire thinks would not turn out favorably for the “Notorious” one.
“I’m really not paying attention to him, but I hope he does win and gets a chance to face Jose Aldo because he’s gonna be embarrassed by Jose Aldo,” Freire said. “He’ll be embarrassed in front of the world, and he’s gonna leave that fight hurt.”