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Bellator 188: Patricio Freire says no featherweight on the planet hits harder

Bellator 188 ‘Lahat vs Labiano’ comes to Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv, Israel for a show to air Nov. 17, 2017 on Spike. Today MMA Mania talks to Patricio Freire about what was originally to be the headline fight of this card.

Patricio Freire interview

Bellator 188 “Lahat vs. Labiano” comes to Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv, Israel on Nov. 16, 2017 for a show broadcast Nov. 17 on Spike TV. The main event will see Featherweight Noad Lahat (11-3) take on Jeremiah Labiano (11-5) in a home country showcase for the popular Lahat.

The original main event was set to be a rematch between Patricio “Pitbull” Freire and Daniel Weichel, playing on the history between the two men dating to Bellator 138 in St. Louis. Freire had originally been set to face Georgi Karakhanyan, but Weichel ended up getting the title shot when Karakhanyan withdrew due to injury.

In the irony of ironies Freire now has to withdraw from the fight due to a knee injury, but MMA Mania still talked to him reclaiming the title from Daniel Straus back in April of this yea.

“It was very satisfying to close the chapter (with Straus) fighting for the belt. When he returned I was viewed as the No. 1 contender and I don’t think anyone can question that I was above everyone (else). It was very satisfactory for me to get that win in front of my family. My kid and my wife was there so it was a very good experience.”

Freire is looking for an equally enjoyable experience when he eventually faces Weichel, an opponent he credits highly for climbing his way back up the ranks to earn a second fight.

“He was able to make his way back to the top of the line. He’s racked up a few wins during this time and he deserves a title shot. He’s a tough opponent that I’ll have to face again but the Patricio he’s going to see this time is completely different than the one that fought him in 2015.”

What has changed for Freire then over the course of fights with Benson Henderson and the aforementioned Straus? “Pitbull” says everything has changed.

“I’ve completely changed my game and you can see this in the past two fights. I’ve changed the way I approach the fights, my strategy, and all other aspects of my game. He’s going to be in for a surprise this time.”

There’s no reason to think Weichel hasn’t improved as well given he’s racked up four straight wins since the last time he faced Freire in Bellator.

“He seems (to be) a little bit more consistent in his approach to the fights. He seems more to have more awareness of what’s going on during the fights. I believe that knockout made him have more attention during the fights — but that’s pretty much it.”

Two wins in Weichel’s four fight streak have come via split decision, and it seems that “Pitbull” would contest that at least one of those fights should have gone the other way.

“Weichel is a kind of guy that is able to attack well. He’s very consistent and he’s very difficult to put away. I saw the Sanchez for him but the Teixeira fight, going back to it, I think Weichel lost that fight. His best round was the third round, but I believe Teixeira did more than enough to win the first and the second rounds. I don’t know the judges got to that scorecard but it is what it is and he’s fighting me now.”

Only five people have been able to knock Daniel Weichel out over 48 fights and Freire is one of those five. Even though he loves to submit foes (11 of 26) he believes in the power of his punch. Nine wins by KO back that up.

“Absolutely. The strongest puncher anyone can fight at Featherweight will be me. I’m the toughest and hardest hitting Featherweight on the planet.”

Patricio and Patricky have both been successful throughout 2017 and their confidence is high right now as the whole Pitbull Brothers team readies Patricio for this title defense.

“We see that as just part of the grind. We’re missing a lot of other titles that we want to get. We’re looking forward to having a lot of up and coming tough guys in our team that we want to see having belts as well.”

They are also scouting the future of the Featherweight division for contenders and Patricio believes he’s found a few guys in need a bigger challenge.

“I don’t know if they are running from me or if Bellator (is) protecting them but I see guys like A.J. McKee and James Gallagher being put in favorable fights all the time. They’re always put in there to win. They have yet to take a tough test. I believe the next is Emmanuel Sanchez, he’s earned his shot, but after that we have to look at A.J. McKee and James Gallagher unless Bellator’s going to protect them.”

As for who he respects among those he named, Sanchez and McKee seem to get favorable nods, while Gallagher gives Freire the impression he’s a blowhard.

“The Irish one said that he wanted to fight me, and after I said I would fight him, he mentioned going down to 135 and then he gave up on going to 135 and went to have another ‘gimme’ fight at Featherweight. I don’t think anybody runs from me but I don’t want to look at him that way. There’s a big protection around him for sure.”

Either way there’s definitely plenty of reason for him to keep an eye on A.J. McKee following his last fight in Dublin.

“After my fight I’m going to watch his fight but every single Featherweight in my weight class I’ve watched and I have a game plan for each one of them... and every single Lightweight as well.”

Freire is definitely teasing a return to 155 with that quote, but for now he’s got to wait and watch “Lahat vs. Labiano” until he’s healed up for a potential rematch.

Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Lahat vs. Labiano” resides here at all week long.

To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.

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