Bellator 188: “Lahat vs. Labiano” comes to Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv, Israel, this Thursday night (Nov. 16, 2017); however, the Spike TV-televised main event was originally set to feature two-time Featherweight champion Patricio Freire (26-4) against Daniel Weichel (39-9) in a rematch until “Pitbull” withdrew because of a knee injury. Accordingly, local fan favorite Noad Lahat (11-3) was promoted to the main event against Jeremiah Labiano (11-5)
Nevertheless, MMAmania.com spoke to Weichel — who earned his first opportunity at the title after a seven-fight win streak that ran from 2012-15, including four wins in Bellator — about a potential rematch with Pitbull. Ironically, Georgi Karakhanyan was originally penciled in to face “Pitbull” at Bellator 138, but when he stepped out with an injury Weichel was ready to step in. The fight went exceptionally well for Weichel in the first round, and he came within a few seconds of claiming Bellator gold, but the bell saved Freire in round one and 32 seconds into round two he left Weichel on the canvas in stunned defeat.
Weichel recently spoke with us about hopefully facing the Bellator champion sooner rather than later.
“I’m feeling great and I’m looking forward to it. It’s been a long time coming for this rematch and I think the right time for this fight.”
“I fought tough guys, maybe the toughest guys out there in the division, all contenders like Karakhanyan, Sanchez and Macapa — especially Macapa, one of the toughest guys out there. Of course these victories they gave me confidence, but also I’ve learned a lot from each and every fight and carried this with me to the next one.”
Weichel had the same confidence going into Bellator 138, taking seven straight wins into his title shot, but the next time he locks horns with “Pitbull” he knows he can bring the title back to Frankfurt.
“Oh, it will be a fight of two of the best Featherweights in the world. It will be technical, but it will also be a war. I think we’ve both improved as fighters, and the one with the bigger will who wants it more will carry it home ... and I’m pretty sure that I’m that one.”
Even “Pitbull” believes that Weichel learned from their first fight and became a more disciplined fighter, an assessment with which Weichel agrees.
“Yeah, absolutely. I think this was one thing that I took from the first fight with ‘Pitbull’ -- that I’m keeping my concentration and focus high on every moment of the fight no matter which situation we have. This is one thing I’ve worked on and I think I carry it with me in every fight. I try to keep my focus on myself, on each moment that I’m in this cage, and I think this helps me a lot to see openings and to be aware of attacks my opponent is shooting.”
“Shooting” has an apt double meaning since Freire has nine knockouts and 11 submissions. He can blast you with his hands or take you down for a submission. Regardless, Weichel is ready for anything.
“He changed his style quite much, yeah obviously in a kind of karate style, and more into counter punching or single attacks. It’s about how he can bring the style with an opponent like me. According to what I saw in his last fight I think I have a great skill set to face this kind of style. Of course he worked a lot on his footwork with this style so this is one the things he has really improved on.”
Weichel may not get to headline now at Bellator 188, but he can still enjoy the sights and sounds of Tel Aviv with all of his family.
“I’m excited! First of all Tel Aviv is supposed to be an amazing city. Everybody’s telling me that Tel Aviv is a great city, everybody should go there, amazing people, so I’m really looking forward to going there. Also it’s not so far away from Germany, it’s about a four to five hour flight, and many people from Frankfurt are coming with me to support me, and also our family is coming so I’m really happy about that.”
Weichel would be happy if every Bellator fight was this short of a flight ... if not shorter.
“Well, you know when I fought in Dublin it was almost like fighting at home. I had a 1:50 flight and I was there, and I had a lot of support from my people here in Frankfurt, also my dad and my brother came to Dublin so it was amazing for me. Somehow we have to make it happen that they bring Bellator to Germany. This would be breathtaking for me.”
When Weichel finally gets his opportunity to face Freire for a second time he knows that all of the hard work and all of the research he’s done will pay dividends.
“I analyzed this first fight more than anybody in this world. I watched this fight a million times. I looked where my mistake was, and I think I found my mistake, I learned my lesson from it. I improved over the last two and a half years as a fighter. I’m going into this rematch with a lot of confidence, feeling even more confident than before the first fight. Of course there’s pressure to win this world title but not fighting him a second time. I feel that the first fight has shown that I see the openings and I can take it and I can hurt him on that.”
In fact, Weichel is very confident in his chances of winning the rematch in highlight-reel fashion.
“I will prove that I’m the hardest hitting fighter in the Featherweight division.”
Unfortunately fight fans will have to wait another day to catch this fight, but don’t miss “Lahat vs. Labiano” this Thursday night at 9 p.m. ET.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Lahat vs. Labiano” resides here at MMAmania.com all week long.
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