Bellator featherweight champ Patricio Freire has more important things to think about than fighting: He’s a father.
“I’ve never felt a love like this before,” Freire told MMAjunkie. “It’s a unique experience. I am in a truly blessed stage of my life. I feel gifted by God.”
But being a parent has also brought his career into sharp focus, mainly because it’s taken on a new meaning in his life.
“Now, not only do I fight for the joy of it, but also for the future of my family,” he told MMAjunkie.
On Friday, Freire (24-2 MMA, 12-2 BMMA) will block out his alleged tussle with rival Will Brooks and focus on a former challenger, ex-champ Daniel Straus (23-6 MMA, 10-3 BMMA), whom he meets in the headliner of Bellator 145 at St. Louis’ Scottrade Center. The fight airs on Spike following prelims on MMAjunkie.
It’s not the most welcome booking for the Brazilian champ. A dearth of viable competitors has made rematches his primary source of income since winning the belt 14 months ago. But it’s also an interesting matchup, he said, because of what Straus brings to the table, and how their most recent fight played out.
The two have met twice before and will go around a third time. Freire, who’s ranked No. 4 in the NOS Energy Drink MMA featherweight rankings, first outpointed No. 11-ranked Straus at Bellator 45 and then, in January, he submitted the American in the fourth round at Bellator 132.
“To always beat the same guys won’t change anything in the eyes of the world,” Freire said. “Having said that, this fight with Straus was the best that Bellator could book right now, due to Straus’ own merits. Having submitted him was not enough. People still talk about our second fight, forgetting how much I was affected by unintended illegal blows, and they think he can beat me.
“On Nov. 6, I won’t leave any doubt that I’m number one. I think I will fight (Pat) Curran and (Daniel) Weichel yet again, but I’m hoping for new opponents after facing them. Rematches are good up to a point; eventually people get tired.”
Freire narrowly escaped a knockout in his previous title defense. In June, Weichel caught him late in the first round and sent him teetering to his corner before he rallied with a spectacular knockout.
In his mind, however, the rematch he’d most like is one with ex-champ Joe Warren, who is currently serving a suspension for a positive marijuana test. At Bellator 23 in 2010, Warren defeated Freire via split call to hand “Pitbull” his first professional loss.
“That’s the only rematch I would really ask for,” Freire said. “I’ve asked for that fight with Warren since we first faced each other, and he won that absurd decision. But Bellator has protected him ever since.
“I’m giving a second rematch to Straus after beating him twice. I’ll probably have to give rematches to others. So I hope they give me the chance to have the rematch I want.”
At that point, he said, he might be able to start polishing his legacy. But even with that, he thinks things are going pretty well on that front right now.
“I am satisfied with my career,” Freire said. “I’ve had 26 fights and, in my opinion, I’m still undefeated. I’ve beat tough, renowned guys. I’ve accomplished what no one else could. Some people don’t recognize it, but when I’m done, there won’t be any doubt that I was the best of all time.”