The man responsible for two of the six losses that Daniel Straus (24-6) has tasted in his career -- Bellator Featherweight champion Patrico Freire (24-2) -- will stand across the cage from him for a third time this Friday night (Nov. 6, 2015) at Bellator 145: "Vengeance."
Freire defeated Straus, 31, via rear-naked choke in the fourth round back at Bellator 132 last January, thus losing the 145-pound strap he worked so hard to obtain over Pat Curran just one fight prior. The former division kingpin has had to wait almost one year to get another crack at the title.
He is convinced that he will win the belt back ... and that "Pitbull" shares those very same thoughts.
That is what Straus explained on the "Road to Bellator 145: With a Vengeance" preview show on Spike TV (watch it here and here), saying Freire "knows he is going to lose to him." He recently elaborated further on those comments in an interview with MMAmania.
"It's self explanatory, man," Straus said, in a way that intimated everyone should be convinced. "I mean he knows it and I know it. When I walk into that cage he knows he is fighting the best Daniel Straus he is ever going to see. And the way that the last one went, he knows he got lucky. We all know it. The whole world knows he got lucky. It's just one of those things I don't have to talk myself up. I don't have to run my mouth about him. I don't need to talk shit about him. I don't need to do anything. All I need to do is show up and fight. He knows who I am."
Straus was in command of that fight before Freire swung the momentum late and locked up the fight-ending submission. He told MMAmania.com last time that he "beat the shit" out of Freire before the submission loss and was confident he would get the job done once he got another opportunity.
The Cincinnati, Ohio, native, who exclaimed "Who dey?, Who dey?" when asked about the undefeated (7-0) Bengals, explained what he's been working on to close the gap on the current champion to ensure that he leaves the Bellator cage a winner at Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo., on Friday night.
"I just went back and fixed the small things," Straus said. "I didn't change my game plan. I didn't change the people I'm working with. All I did was fix the small things and small mistakes that I was doing. Giving up my back in short quarters and things like that. I had to fix that to make sure I win the fight."
Although it is true that the former champion has been submitted two out of his last four fights, the only other time he has been submitted was the very first bout of his professional career more than six years ago. He isn't lacking in the grappling department -- he has proven time and again throughout his career. In fact, he won his last fight by a guillotine choke over Henry Corrales at Bellator 138.
The loss to Freire, he says, was a mental gaffe.
"Yeah, that's the thing," Straus said. "People that actually know me and have seen me fight for a long time -- not just recently -- know that it's not my jiu-jitsu game that is lacking. I had just had a mental error. It slipped from me. It's happened to the best of them. Obviously, it happened to me twice and twice is too many times. I can't allow that to keep happening. It affects not just me, but it is going to affect my career if it happens again. I don't want that to happen again. I can't allow that to happen again. Like I said, I went back to the drawing board again and fixed the small things. I had a great camp with all my coaches. All my teammates have been supportive and have been pushing me. It's a pleasure to be going into the cage fighting with the guys by my side. Will B [Brooks] is fighting for the belt. We all have the same goals, the same motifs. We are all on the same timeline and we are ready."
For the "Road to Bellator 145: With a Vengeance" Spike TV had full access into his daily life, gym routine and everything else. Straus is definitely a private individual, but he was willing to give fans and viewers more of a bird's eye view of what his life as a professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter is all about.
"It's an experience," he laughs. "When I first started this sport I told my coach [Rod Houser/Vision MMA], 'I don't care about being a champion and I don't care about being famous.' He told me one thing that has always stuck with me. He said, 'whatever you do, there are more eyes that are going to want to see you.' That has really meant something to me. I feel like I'm always going to be a great fighter and I don't need to be a great fighter just for people not to watch me. So, you have to adapt to it. I am a private person, but for fans to understand me more, they have to see me more. They need to understand why I am a private person. Why I don't like this. Why I don't like that. It's no sweat off my back to get people to know me."
The American Top Team (ATT)-trained Featherweight has definitely warmed up to the spotlight, but it doesn't come without a caveat, which is to respect him for who he is as a person. Straus has been through plenty of adversity in his life and career and he feels strongly that just because he is in the limelight -- like many other fighters and professional athletes -- that doesn't give the public carte blanche to say whatever they want about him.
"A lot of people see fighters as public figures and because we are on TV or doing this or doing that our lives a certain way when it's not the case," he explained. "Just like other fighters have dealt with depression, I've dealt with mental health issues. I've dealt with family issues. I've dealt with drug habits. I've dealt with tons of things in my life and it's not something you always want to talk about. It's not something that you always want to share with people. People take things and twist them. The media says whatever they want to say to get viewers. You got organizations putting out things that you say a certain way to get viewers. And that's what it is ... it is for the viewers.
"This is still my life. If people want to be a part of my life and people want to know my life they have to respect that. We don't watch the mailman deliver mail and then get on Twitter and then degrade him because he's delivering the mail with the right hand instead of the left hand. Like I said, man, I just want people to respect us for what we do and who we are. I get a sense that because we are public figure they can say or do whatever they like."
While he may be guarded against the naysayers, Straus has grown to realize the power he can wield as far as having a positive impact on Bellator fans who watch him fight. He wasn't aware of it at first and he is still getting accustomed to it, but now it's a welcoming feeling because the fans that connect with him for who he is outside of the cage, humanizes what he does for a living inside of it.
"The thing that I'm starting to learn a little bit more is people that look up to you and say that you are an inspiration and people that are like, 'you touched me in ways,'" he said. "I'm not here to touch people. I didn't know I'm touching somebody. I'm just here to do my job. To know that I am touching people is awesome. I want people to understand I'm just as much human as the next guy. I put on my pants one leg at a time just like they do. I eat, I sleep, I shit just like they do. Nothing too different. If people look at me otherwise, I think the best thing to do is keep an open mind as far as professional athletes. Keep an open mind that we are not just out here playing ball or fighting or making movies because we are stars. We are doing this to feed our families. These are things we love to do."
Straus -- like fellow ATT teammates Steve Mocco, Jeff Monson and Mirsad Bektic -- is featured in Doug Merlino's new book entitled "Beast: Blood, Struggle and Dreams at the Heart of Mixed Martial Arts," which touches on the beginning of his career, his 2013 arrest on drug charges and a suspended driver's license, as well as how he won the title.
"'The Beast' is a dope book," Straus said. "Please go pick that up. It's really good stuff. It's not just about myself, but a couple of other teammates. It has a little bit about the inside of fighting in our lives. The struggles that we go through. The ups and downs. It talks a little bit about when I won the title, the highs and lows. Everyone thinks this game is such a high for us. Not realizing this is life. We feed our families on this money. They depend on us going in there and being successful. That is what the book is about. I encourage anybody that wants to get a little piece of knowledge of myself and of the other fighters to got out there and read it."