Patricio “Pitbull” Freire will go for his second title defense on Friday. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Bellator MMA featherweight champion Patricio Freire is one confident man.
A substantial betting favorite ahead of Friday’s Bellator 138, “Pitbull” has set his sights not only on defeating challenger Daniel Weichel, but also becoming the top 145-pounder in the sport.
Currently riding a six-fight winning streak, Freire is convinced that nothing Weichel can bring to the table will be enough to wrest the title from him. Freire believes he is among the elite at featherweight, but he doesn’t feel the same about his German counterpart.
“He’s a good fighter and he’s tough, but he’s not excellent,” Freire told Sherdog.com this week. “What I mean by that is he’s good in all aspects but not excellent at one thing. I don’t think it will be an easy fight. He has a lot of experience and he has ways to keep the fight going. He has reach, he has cardio and endurance, [but] he’s not great at boxing, kickboxing [or] on the ground. I think I overcome him in all respects.”
Freire has submitted 39 percent of his opponents since turning pro, but the Brazilian scoffs at the notion that Weichel might have the upper hand when it comes to grappling. “The Weasel” already has 21 submission wins under his belt compared to Freire’s nine, and when breaking down the matchup, it’s assumed that if Weichel is to snatch the title away from Freire, it will come on the ground.
“He’s got a good submission game, but I haven’t seen him submit any really good guys on the ground,” Freire huffed. “I respect his ground game, but I accept the challenge to fight him on the ground. I’ve been doing jiu-jitsu since I was a kid and I have no problem going on the ground with him. I’m pretty sure I’m able to submit him.”
Regardless of where the fight winds up, Freire is on a mission to destroy Weichel. He stated that his plan is to stop every single man he faces with “no mercy” and eventually defend his title in his native Brazil. Lest anybody believe that “Pitbull” expects to walk right through Weichel, he’s quick to point out that his focus now is on the task at hand and not looking past his next foe.
With original opponent Georgi Karakhanyan forced to withdraw due to an injury in training, Freire knows he cannot afford to slip up against Weichel, who has won seven straight bouts.
“I wasn’t disappointed because I felt from the beginning that [Weichel] deserved to be my challenger,” Freire said. “[Karakhanyan] will have his chance when he gets better, but first I have to take care of Weichel.”
Freire’s two most recent wins came over top-rated fighters Daniel Straus and Pat Curran, the latter of whom was recently beaten by Weichel. It was, without question, the German’s signature win to date, but Freire doesn’t take much of what transpired in the cage back in February to heart. Considering that Freire himself has locked horns with Curran twice already, he said he saw nothing in Weichel’s tussle with “Paddy Mike” that made him second-guess his strategy.
“The Pat Curran who fought me and the Pat Curran who fought him are two different people,” he said matter-of-factly. “I think with my second fight with Curran, he put everything there, and I think he was still living that fight when he fought Weichel. He didn’t show up for that fight. If he was the same Pat Curran who fought me, that fight [against Weichel] would have been different. I’m not taking anything away from Weichel, but I’ve fought Curran and I know him.”
If Weichel is able to pull off the win, it would be considered one of the bigger upsets of the year. But Freire says he is more than confident to prevent something like that from happening. To be considered the greatest in the world, he said, means dominating everybody in his path. The world will find out on Friday if he is looking past “The Weasel,” or if this is just another step on the path of all-time greatness.