Daniel Weichel was within seconds of capturing featherweight gold at Bellator 138.
In a similar span of time, he saw that dream instantly evaporate. Weichel’s June 19 loss to then 145-pound champion Patricio Freire was a cruel reminder of the fickle nature of MMA.
One moment, the German fighter had “Pitbull” nearly knocked out, only for the first-round bell to grant the Brazilian a much-needed reprieve. Weichel attempted to capitalize on his momentum at the outset of the second stanza but paid for his aggression, as a left hook from Freire cold-cocked “The Weasel” just 32 seconds into the frame.
Just like that, Weichel’s seven-fight winning streak was a thing of the past, but he did learn a valuable lesson that night in St. Louis.
“Never be emotional inside the cage,” Weichel recently told Sherdog.com. “That’s usually something that I do pretty well. For me I think I lost my focus for a moment, and against such an opponent like ‘Pitbull,’ if you do this you pay the price.”
The cost of such a defeat wasn’t so steep that Weichel is far removed from contention, however. In fact, he may very well be in a title eliminator come Friday night when the Team MMA Spirit representative squares off with Georgi Karakhanyan in a featured featherweight tilt at Bellator 147 at San Jose State University Event Center in San Jose, Calif. The evening’s main card airs on Spike TV beginning at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT.
Coincidentally, Weichel replaced an injured Karakhanyan at Bellator 138. A former World Series of Fighting and Tachi Palace Fights titlist, Karakhanyan has won 10 of his last 11 bouts, including a first-round submission of decorated wrestler Bubba Jenkins at Bellator 132 this past January.
“Georgi is very well-rounded; he’s a good fighter. I was pretty happy that I was going to fight him because that puts me right back into position for another run at the belt,” Weichel said. “He is one of the top guys, and I’m really excited to fight him.”
While Weichel admits to dwelling on the Freire loss “quite some time after the fight,” he says that he has finally moved on from that setback. What he hasn’t moved past are those championship dreams he came so close to fulfilling last summer. Freire is no longer the champion, having been vanquished by Daniel Straus last month, but that doesn’t change Weichel’s focus.
“He [Straus] did a great job that night. My congratulations to him. But for me, it doesn’t matter who’s champion. My goal is to have that belt and I will put everybody away in front of me,” Weichel said.
“I learned my lesson from that fight with ‘Pitbull.’ My ultimate goal is to get that Bellator gold and fight anybody who has it.”
Weichel’s goal of winning a Bellator title is not entirely personal. He concedes that a belt would mean a lot to his team and his family, but he would also like to see the sport grow in his home country. For now, MMA is a work in progress there.
“MMA is slowly growing in Germany. More and more people get to know what it is, what it’s all about,” Weichel said. “It’s still not a major sport, and I would love to see MMA as a major sport in Germany. That people get to understand how much work is behind all of fighting, how much you have to put into it to be a professional fighter.”