Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire is the current Bellator MMA Featherweight Champion. Over the last year Pitbull has emerged from his former code of silence with a vengeance. No longer willing to quietly wait for what is his due, he’s now making his will known, both inside and outside of the cage.
I’m not the one starting things but I’ll definitely be the one to end it.”– Patricio Freire
In September 2014, Freire forcefully snatched the oft-changing featherweight belt from Pat Curran, who had lost it to, and regained it from, Daniel Straus. So far this year Patricio has successfully stopped both challengers to his featherweight title; former champion Daniel Straus suffered a rear naked choke and Daniel Weichel was the recipient of a knockout punch.
On November 6 at Bellator 145, Patricio is due to face Daniel Straus for a third time, the second for the title. Using Freire’s business manager as an interpreter, we were able to communicate with Patricio ahead of his title defense against repeat challenger Straus.
There was an interview published in September with MMA Fighting where you reportedly doubted the need for a Daniel Straus rematch, for a third time, after beating him decisively in your prior two matches.
Reportedly, you stated that you felt that he would bring a different fight with him, possibly showing further improvement. Even with that optimism, are you bored with Straus as an opponent?
PF: Well, I did beat him two times. But I understand why this fight is happening. That’s the biggest fight to be made at the moment and although I beat him twice, people still talk like he could beat me. They talk about him having a mental lapse. I don’t think that’s the case, and even if it was, staying strong at all moments is part of the fight game.
People also forget how I was affected by several unintentional illegal blows and that the fight was close. Straus keeps talking that he was beating me up until I finished him and people bought it. Come fight time I’ll put an exclamation point in this story and show everyone, and him, that I’m the best.
I’ve had the chance to observe you at three different Bellator events; two of which you were fighting, one you were acting as a corner man to your brother Patricky. At all three successes it was rare to see your demeanor change from a seemingly angry, focused fighter.
Even when you coached your brother to victory I was unable to detect any change, you remained solemn, stern, and focused. When do you relax and celebrate your accomplishments and how? What does your life look like out of competition?
PF: I need to be cold at those moments. If I let emotions take over they’ll cloud my judgement and I won’t be doing the best job out there. I’m a normal guy; I laugh, I play, I get angry like everybody. The celebrations start right after the positive results, until then it’s all business.
I’m a pretty open person. I like to celebrate with the fans and those who give us positive energy. But, of course, it’s an even bigger thing when it’s with our teammates and family.
I don’t celebrate by drinking or partying, I prefer to have reunions with friends. [I have] an athlete’s behavior. Outside of competition, I’m always watching fights, always studying. That’s what I enjoy. I like to go to the movies, hang out with friends and family.
I interviewed your brother Patricky “Pitbull” Freire a few months ago and he expressed his desire to conquer and win the lightweight title in Bellator. Your apparent desire, as expressed in the media, is to be a two-division champion at featherweight, your current division, as well as at lightweight where current titleholder Will Brooks is reigning.
PF: Actually my plans were to get the bantamweight belt when [Joe] Warren was the champion. I’m a fighter and weight classes don’t mean much to me, I’m here for the challenges and building a legacy. I
‘ll fight anyone from 135 to 170, I’d love to be a multiple weight class champion and [beating] up Will Brooks would be nice. He’s an idiot, likes to brag on the internet and try to spin things in his favor, but when he sees us he walks with his head low. If Bellator lets me, I’d love to whoop his ass.
Do you expect a fight with Brooks to be booked sooner rather than later, with that grudge as the incentive? Is your dislike of him amplified to get more publicity for your goal to be a multi-division champion?
PF: I don’t know. I don’t think Bellator has that in mind. Patricky’s [in] the line as well and I don’t want to be on his way. But if they decide to book me against Brooks, I’ll take that fight in a heartbeat. Not because of the belt, but because I really want to put a beating on him.
The worst thing anyone can do is make a fight with me personal.” – Patricio Freire
Patricky’s answers to the questions of where that would leave him seemed vague, like there is no real game plan or agreement between the two of you. He mused that he intends to go down a weight class, but in this scenario you would still hold that belt also.
Leaving Bellator did not appear to be an option that your brother was willing to entertain. Let’s say that all the stars align and you get the lightweight belt as well. What do you do when confronted with a proposed bout with your brother?
PF: Me and Patricky, I’m not sure we’d ever fight. Unless they’d make us millionaires. [That] wouldn’t be bad to receive for something we do every day (laughs).
Even so, I think there’s plenty of space for both of us to accomplish our goals. If Patricky moved down and was in line for a title shot I’d go and get the belt in another weight class. Give him the chance to get the featherweight belt.
You’ve demonstrated dominance over Straus without any of the public arguments nor taunts, so it’s clear that you can fight without a feeling of personal offense or anger at your opponent, yet that seems to be more common than not lately with your other potential competitors.
Taunts and insults between you and Georgi Karakhanyan before he was injured. The dislike that you and Will Brooks have for each other, expressed publicly on social media with Brooks going so far as to threaten to accost you, and/or your brother, out of competition at the upcoming Bellator St. Louis event.
Are you a fighter that thrives on emotion to prepare to fight? Does that give you extra incentive to push yourself during training leading up to the bout?
PF: The worst thing anyone can do is make a fight with me personal. See, I already have a lot of motivation to beat them up and they give me more fuel. I respect those who respect me.
These guys are looking at Chael Sonnen and Conor McGregor and decide to open their mouths and trash talk me to become relevant. I won’t stay silent. I’m not the one starting things but I’ll definitely be the one to end it. About Will Brooks. I’m really looking forward to when he stops being a keyboard warrior and does something. I’ll sleep him right there.
Prior to defeating Pat Curran to win the title, you expressed a feeling of disrespect for the delay in granting you a title shot in order to give Curran an immediate rematch with new champion Straus. This, of course, occurred prior to the change in Bellator’s administration.
Currently it is a similar situation with Straus only required to win one fight before being gifted another shot. Are you satisfied with the “new” Bellator and how the events are put together?
PF: I get why they did that. I cleared the division. There’s really no other contenders out there right now. In my opinion, Straus is the #2 guy at Bellator at the moment; he’s coming from a win, it makes sense.
If you pay attention [to] his skills and everything he brings to the table, he’s a very high level guy. He’d beat guys like Conor McGregor, Chad Mendes, and could give Jose Aldo a run for his money.
The division is being developed again with several match ups taking place, I believe I’ll have fresher contenders after this fight. I’m satisfied, I understand what they’re doing, it’s a sport but needs a bit of entertainment and they’re on the right track. It remembers PRIDE, I like it.
Are you satisfied with how active you are as the champion?
PF: Yes, I’d like to fight at least three times a year and I’m on my way to do it now. I fight because I like to, so keep them coming.
I want to fight in Brazil. It’s my country.” -Patricio Freire
What is it about fighting that drew you towards it in the beginning? Is that reason just as strong today as it was at the beginning?
PF: It’s part of me, I was born to do it. The more I can face strong challenges and prove my skills the more satisfied I am.
Recently Ultimate Fighting Championship’s welterweight fighter Nick Diaz was given a 5-year ban from fighting due to a third positive drug test for marijuana. With his age, the ban of 5 years effectively ends his career.
In Bellator, prominent fighters Mike ‘The Marine’ Richman and Alexander Shlemenko tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in California, both were suspended. Richmond was suspended for 2 years by the California State Athletic Commission, Shlemenko was given a three year suspension and ten thousand dollar fine, both of which he is contesting in court.
How do you feel about the trend in longer suspensions, some career-ending, for failing a drug test?
PF: I have nothing against who use marijuana in a legal, medicinal way. I bet it doesn’t enhance Nick Diaz’s performances. We had Jon Jones use coke and not be suspended, Nick used marijuana and got suspended five years. This makes no sense.
We see guys on steroids pay a fine and be [suspended] for a year like Anderson Silva. Nick uses it to battle anxiety and other problems; he shouldn’t be penalized for that. From my understanding, the lab that said he was doped isn’t even WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) accredited, it shouldn’t be considered. I support the #FreeNickDiaz movement.
Have you ever experimented with non performance enhancing recreational drug use outside of competition?
PF: Never have and never will.
In Bellator it’s pretty much a given that you will be fighting in the U.S. Any other countries that you’d like to fight in and why?
PF: I want to fight in Brazil. It’s my country. The Brazilian audience is different. I’ve fought my challengers in their country, I’d like to have the chance to defend my belt here.
What would you like people to know about you that you haven’t gotten a chance to express in interviews?
PF: I don’t know. I think I’ve been able to express myself well. I think people have gotten a pretty good idea of who I am as a person but I have yet to show in my fights who I really am as a fighter, you’ve only seen the surface.
Thank you for your time Patricio. I look forward to watching you defend your title cageside on November 6th in St. Louis, Missouri.
The Bellator main card will be broadcast live on Spike TV.