CHICAGO — Patricio Freire will look to become a Bellator two-weight champion on Saturday night, but he thinks the fight against Michael Chandler should have happened much sooner.
Freire, the Bellator featherweight titleholder, meets Chandler, the lightweight champ, in the Bellator 221 main event at the Allstate Arena in Chicago, IL, USA, for Chandler’s title. “Pitbull” is looking forward to winning a second belt — and especially to simply getting his hand raised against Chandler — but he believes the promotion could have booked this bout far sooner than it did.
“It’s a fight I believe should have happened a long time ago,” Freire told Bloody Elbow on Wednesday. “Perhaps Bellator and Viacom were waiting for him to get have the belt back and some of his shine back to make this fight finally happen. But I think they missed some opportunities to do it before.”
Freire and Chandler have gone back and forth for years on social media and in interviews. Both are two of Bellator’s biggest faces for the company and their fight is looked at as one of the biggest in the promotion’s history. But after multiple requests to fight Chandler, the Brazilian moved on from a fight against him after it seemed it was never going to happen.
Chandler lost the lightweight belt to Brent Primus at Bellator NYC in June 2017, and that’s when talks seemed to die down. Chandler was more focused on a rematch with Primus or a trip to 170 pounds.
After consecutive wins, Chandler rematched Primus late last year and re-captured the title with a dominant victory; a superfight with Freire once again made sense.
“Fighting against him is something that I never worried about — I wanted it, but never worried about it,” Freire said. “I had already given up after all these years and all these requests and the fight never happened. I was already tired [from] asking them to fight Chandler, so I had given up on it.”
Freire has accused Chandler of performance-enhancing drug use ahead of Bellator 221, but Freire said his distaste toward the Hard Knocks 365 product stems from talk about Freire’s family.
“He’s a fake, he lies, he acts like a different person, and he talks sh-t about people and their family,” Freire said of Chandler. “He talked sh-t about my family, and now he’s gonna have to pay for that. … I’m gonna defend my family and rip his head off.”
Not only has Freire been given an opportunity to win a second title, but he hasn’t had to cut as much weight for this fight. Freire said there are “several positive aspects” to fighting at 155 pounds, but couldn’t say whether or not he plans to stay in the new weight class after the Chandler fight, win or lose.
“I’m naturally bigger, so I have to drain myself a little bit to remain at a lower weight so I can fight at featherweight,” Freire said. “This time I could be more near my natural weight — it was around 175 pounds — during the camp. As I was doing the last part of my camp in Arizona, I didn’t have the long flight from Brazil to the US, so I got here very well rested. I didn’t have to drain myself at all during this camp — very energetic and I’m feeling very well about it.”
An impending featherweight tournament may give Freire incentive to return to 145 pounds, but his next step isn’t something he’s thinking about heading into the Chandler fight.
“I fight for challenges,” Freire said. “If there’s something that picks up my attention, maybe I can go after that.”
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