According to Patricio Freire, his most recent loss at Bellator 145 occurred because he was not the most desperate man in the cage that night.
Last November, Freire relinquished his featherweight title to Daniel Straus in a five-round bout at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. “Pitbull” started slowly -- Straus had him reeling from a a straight left hand in the second stanza -- and couldn’t recover, falling to the American Top Team product for the first time in their three meetings.
In hindsight, Freire believes that Straus knew another loss to his Brazilian rival would remove him from the title picture for the foreseeable future, and that mindset made all the difference.
“He was fighting for his life. He lost to me twice; he couldn’t afford to lose to me a third time,” Freire recently told Sherdog.com. “He was nervous, he was emotional and he brought that to the fight. He was able to overcome me. It was a night that he wasn’t able to bring out the best of me, and it was a night he put his life on the line and [it brought the best out of him].”
Freire will return to the cage for the first time since that defeat at Bellator 153 on Friday night, when he meets short-notice foe Henry Corrales in the evening’s co-main event at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The main card airs on Spike TV beginning at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT.
The Brazilian will be heavily favored against Corrales, who has dropped his first two Bellator appearances. He was originally supposed to face John Teixeira da Conceicao, but his countryman withdrew from the bout due to a rib injury, an ailment that has Freire questioning the practices of the fighter’s camp.
“Nova Uniao has a big history of things like that. Every time their fighters line up to face someone at the top, they get injured, something happens and they don’t fight. I need to see it to be believe. Show me the picture, show me the doctor’s words telling me he really broke his rib,” Freire said. “Until I see it, I’m suspicious. I don’t believe John is the type to run away from a fight, but Nova Uniao is known for doing stuff like this.”
Such speculation could have been avoided had Straus been healthy enough to compete by now. Freire says he would likely have received an immediate rematch, but the 145-pound champ is still in the process of recovering from a broken left hand suffered in the first round of their last fight.
“This was the fight that was supposed to happen now, but he’s injured. Bellator already promised me that I’m getting a title shot next, that I’m the first guy he’s going to fight when he returns,” Freire said. “That’s pretty much what I expect to happen next. I’m going after that belt, and you can already write down his name as the future ex-champion of the weight class.”
For now, Freire will simply focus on returning to the win column. But in the long run, filler fights don’t interest him.
“I need to be at the top and fight. The moment I think I’m not at the top anymore and I can’t be at the top anymore, I will stop,” he said. “I’m not here to be just one more guy. That’s not what I signed for. I’m here to be at the top.”