Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (31-4) is on one of the best runs in all of Bellator. He’s the king of the featherweight and lightweight divisions and is two years removed from knocking out UFC lightweight title contender Michael Chandler. So why is ‘Pitbull’ heading into his main event against Emmanuel Sanchez (20-4) as part of Bellator’s debut on Showtime Friday night with a chip on his shoulder? The double champ believes he’s being overlooked by the national media and he’s ready to turn that narrative upside down.
“Unfortunately, I believe a big part of the media is political,” Freire told Uproxx Sports. “It doesn’t make sense that Michael Chandler is fighting for a title (in UFC) and he’s getting all the attention when I’ve knocked Chandler out and I don’t get that recognition. I got ranked 21 (in Tapology’s featherweight rankings) and he’s ranked fourth (in Tapology’s lightweight rankings). How is it possible?”
Freire was named Bellator’s top pound-for-pound fighter in the organization’s inaugural rankings earlier this week. But that’s not enough for the featherweight and lightweight champion, who hopes to put on a show against Sanchez in a rematch three years in the making.
“I’ve always been mentally strong and I’m 100 percent ready for this fight. I’ve always had the toughest mindset in the game and I’m going to continue to do so,” Freire said. “I’m not underestimating him by any means. He brought one of the toughest fights of my career. He’s a complete fighter, but I haven’t seen much of a difference in him from that fight to now.”
Friday night’s main event represents a stepping stone for Freire, with higher aspirations than simply defending his featherweight belt and moving on to the finals of the Featherweight World Grand Prix Tournament against the unbeaten A.J. McKee.
“(I want to) break records and continue to write history as one of the best in the world,” Freire said. “(Moving down to 135 pounds) is something I’ve talked about before. It’s something I wish I could do. But I’m already in two divisions. To go down to a third, I don’t think it’s realistic, but it’s definitely something I wanted to do in the past. I think the next step in this game is to do a cross-promotional fight to see who really is the best. Everyone knows it’s me, but everyone is here to deny it. I can bet $1 million when I win this Grand Prix that I am the best in the world.”
As far as who Freire has in mind, he wants the best of the best.
“The ones that have the belt, Volkanovski, Holloway. I’ve beaten Chandler and that’s that. I don’t need to fight Chandler,” Freire said. “(Bellator) is just like me. We like to do these things to prove we are the best. We’ve done cross-promotional fights with RIZIN. Scott (Coker) would like to do that with the UFC for a second time.”
Freire will face off against Sanchez on Friday night at Bellator 255 at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime, which is free to non-subscribers across streaming services, online platforms and TV providers. Bellator 255 will kick off three consecutive weeks of fights, with Bellator 256 scheduled for April 9 and Bellator 257 on April 16.