Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire battles Sergio Pettis with one eye on the history books


Patricio “Pitbull” Freire is a two-belt Bellator champion. (Lucas Noonan/Bellator MMA)

Patricio “Pitbull” Freire stands on the precipice of MMA history as he begins his fight Saturday at Bellator 297 against bantamweight champion Sergio Pettis at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois. Freire wants to become the first fighter from a major MMA promotion to win titles in three weight classes.

Freire is the reigning Bellator featherweight, in his third stint as champion. While a featherweight champion, he added a second belt when he knocked out Michael Chandler in one minute, one second, at Bellator 221 on May 11, 2019, to win his lightweight title.

On Friday, he will retire in an attempt to take the title from Pettis, a feat that would clearly make him the Bellator GOAT. Freire is a -180 favorite at BetMGM, with Pettis at +150.

He sneers when asked if he’s doing it for the money and says he doesn’t make a penny more than if he just makes another featherweight title defense. He has fought with a chip on his shoulder for much of his career and feels he hasn’t gotten due recognition for his many accomplishments. He is 35-5 with 23 finishes and has challenged for a Bellator World Championship 15 times, winning 12. Despite this, he is not in the current pound-for-pound Top 10, as judged by Yahoo. Sports, ESPN or MMA Fighting.

He didn’t receive the praise that fighters like his friend and occasional trainer, Henry Cejudo, received. It gnaws at him, but he thinks history will look on him more kindly.

“We see a lot of fighters being talked about as being on the all-time greatest list,” Freire told Yahoo Sports. “We have a lot of legends coming up all the time in this young sport. One thing no one has achieved yet is winning titles in three different divisions in a major organization. After that, in 100 years, when people come back in the history of MMA, my name will be up there as the first to do it. That was the main motivation for me.

He decided to go now because Bellator was having a bantamweight grand prix. But that made things difficult because cutting weight is an important part of the title fight process. Freire won his featherweight belt first, won the lightweight belt, then dropped back down to featherweight.

It will be the first time since joining Bellator in 2010 that he fights at 135 pounds. Putting on weight is a brutal task for most fighters, who often gain weight after a while rather than suffer to sweat off the pounds needed to make a lower class.

He has yet to do a cutting test, but said he had a comparison done by a physiologist who determined it was safe to do so.

“We have this physiologist on my team and we compared my data with data from other bantamweights on our team,” he said. “…I actually looked more like a bantamweight on the data than the bantamweights on our team. We realized we didn’t need to do a workout weight cut and it’s all going great for perfect weight reduction.”

Bellator president Scott Coker (L) poses with Patricio Freire, who is a two-division champion hoping to become his first three-division champion.  (Lucas Noonan/Bellator MMA)

Bellator President Scott Coker poses with Patricio Freire, who is a two-division champion hoping to become his first three-division champion. (Lucas Noonan/Bellator MMA)

He called Pettis “the most technical opponent I’ve faced” and admitted defeating him wouldn’t be easy.

He aspires to fight the best in the world and has mentioned UFC featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski, ONE’s Demetrious Johnson and PFL’s Brendan Loughnane as opponents he would like to meet in the future.

He said Cejudo told him he would “very easily” defeat UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling and would also be looking forward to facing Sterling.

Unlike boxing, where promotional borders are open, this is rare in MMA and the UFC, which is the sport’s main promoter, has no interest in it.

Freire understands it’s unlikely but can’t for the life of him figure out why not.

“It would benefit this sport so much and end all the ‘what ifs’ if the champions of this sport got together and fought,” Freire said. “As fighters we think we are the best and we can beat anyone. Of course we would like to prove that to the world. I want to fight all these guys, but I can only meet the one who is put on front of me. “

If he gets the win over Pettis, it should get the attention of the MMA world. There are many who believe that UFC is MMA and MMA begins and ends with UFC, but that is not the case. And Freire is heartened that down the road he will be looked upon favorably by historians.

“I’ve tried my whole career to fight the best and prove that I’m the best,” he said. “When we’re all gone and no one can [spin], the recordings will be there for everyone to see. And I think people will then understand what I’ve achieved in this business.”

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