The broken left hand suffered by Daniel Straus in the first round of his fight with Patricio Freire at Bellator 145 didn’t negatively affect his performance that night, but the resulting surgery and rehab kept the featherweight champ out of the cage for all of 2016.
Straus will finally return to action for the first time since November 2015 against the man he last faced, Freire, in the Bellator 178 headliner at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., on Friday night. The evening’s main card will be televised on Spike at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT.
It will be the fourth meeting between Straus and Freire. “Pitbull” won the first two bouts against the American Top Team representative, but Straus got into the win column in a hard-fought five round verdict at Bellator 145, taking Freire’s featherweight title in the process. Preparing for such a familiar foe makes for a different type of training camp.
“You’ve got to tweak some things. We know each other. I know what he’s good at. He knows what I’m good at. I know what his best bet is; he knows what my best bet is. It’s a little bit strenuous,” Straus told Sherdog.com. “It’s going back to the drawing board and seeing what you did wrong and right in past fights and what worked for you. And also seeing what he did right and what worked for him. Kind of creating a situation where you have to get better at the small things. It’s kind of been hard, but at the same time it’s just one of those things.”
While Straus solved the “Pitbull” riddle in their third bout, he claims that it was his fourth-round submission loss to the Brazilian at Bellator 132 where he had an epiphany. In that contest, Straus appeared to be winning the fight with his standup until he left himself vulnerable while attempting an ill-advised kimura after being taken down in the fourth round. Freire capitalized and forced Straus to tap to a rear-naked choke at the 4:49 mark.
“I think I figured some things out in the second fight. In the second fight I was doing great until I had a little mental lapse,” Straus said. “It was really just bringing that to the drawing board the third time and continuing to bring that to the drawing board the fourth time. I remember telling someone I’ve got his number. There were like, ‘Yeah, but you didn’t beat him.’ That doesn’t mean s--t. I know him. I know what the f--k he’s looking for. I’m gonna shut him down.”
While the badly broken hand limited Straus’ activity in the long run, it didn’t appear to hinder him in the most recent fight against Freire, as the Ohio native continued to throw left hands after the initial stanza. The injury also hasn’t affected the champ’s mindset as he prepares to make his return.
“Breaking my hand didn’t hurt my confidence at all. It was one of those things where you just had to build your confidence back up,” he said. “Anytime you’ve been injured it’s like, ‘F--k.’ You’ve got to work through that injury and build back up. That’s all it was. I’ve heard, ‘Oh it was one of the worst breaks I’ve ever seen,’ and all that s--t. I was like alright, ‘Let’s get back to where it should be.’ It’s about working harder and getting myself mentally tough.
“My hand is back 100 percent. It’s been a long road and I knew it was gonna be a long road. I just had to work through it.”
And as far as ring rust goes, well, that’s a distinctly foreign concept to Straus. After all, he was sidelined more than a year before he first captured featherweight gold with a decision victory over Pat Curran at Bellator 106. If he loses to Freire on Friday, the layoff certainly won’t be an excuse.
I don’t buy into it,” he said. “That’s a mental thing. That’s an excuse. Ring rust is an excuse. You don’t hear people say, ‘I won this fight because I had ring rust.’ Ring rust has always been an excuse why you lost a fight, why you didn’t do good in a fight after a layoff. I don’t really believe in it. I just think I’m gonna get the job done or I’m not. Me personally, [I think] I’m gonna get the job done. I know I’ve been out a year, and I know can still do what I’ve been doing. I’m going to continue to do what I’ve been doing.”