Bellator 178 “Straus vs. Pitbull 4” comes to Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. on Apr. 21, 2017. The main event will be Featherweight champion Daniel Straus meeting Patricio “Pitbull” Freire for a fourth time in a Bellator MMA rivalry that dates all the way back to 2011.
In their first encounter Straus was on a 12 fight win streak and Freire was vying to win the same Featherweight tournament as him, each hoping to claim their shot at then champion Joe Warren. Straus faltered in this fight but it served to set the stage for more epic fights to come.
An unforgettable rematch at Bellator 132 saw Straus fall just short of taking the title from the champion Freire, tapping to a rear naked choke with just over 10 seconds left in round four. He finally achieved his goal later that year at Bellator 145 but broke his left hand in the process.
After a layoff of over a year for surgery and rehabilitation, Daniel Straus is back and more focused than ever to prove himself one more time against “Pitbull,” and in today’s conversation for MMA Mania, he says that Nov. 2015 injury hurt that much more when he saw the X-rays.
“Painful! It was painful to see, it was a lot of pain, but it was good to know that I had did what I came to do and got my hand raised.”
Straus has no regrets about it and would do it all over again — which not so coincidentally he’s about to do on Apr. 21 in Uncasville — but it still took much longer to heal than he planned.
“It was quite a bit (of time). I had surgery shortly after the fight, actually that Wednesday. After a little bit we thought we’d get back in the gym. Actually I’ll tell you what happened the FIRST time, I had rotation in (my hand) so it wasn’t healing and I had actually bent the plate. So we went back to the drawing board, had another surgery, and I was thinking shortly after that you know I’d be back to sparring and hitting in maybe another six to nine weeks.”
Unfortunately for Straus that wasn’t even the end of it. It may begin to dawn on you why the champ has been along so way once you hear the rest of the story.
“That was derailed again when we went back to the X-ray and it still wasn’t healing so I didn’t get to punch until this past October. Yeah it was a long time — it was almost a year before I could punch with it again but you know I stayed in the gym. I was still sparring. I sparred with one hand for a while, I had one hand in the cast, the other in a boxing glove, and you know I was just still doing my thing. It didn’t stop me.”
Few things ever do stop Straus in a fight. In over 30 pro fights he’s been knocked out twice and submitted thrice. Straus made it clear that in his mind he DIDN’T lose one of those fights to “Pitbull” especially if you looked at both men afterward.
“For me I won that second one. I mean yeah he won on paper with choking me out, but from the beginning to the end of that fight he was getting his ASS whooped — and that’s exactly what I said I was going to do. It just took my third fight for me to get my hand raised.”
In his mind there’s one time Straus can admit that Freire got the better of him even though technically it’s been two times.
“The first fight -- I’ll give him that. It was close but in my eyes he won that won and the second one too but, you know I came to do what I said I was gonna do. I did it in the third fight and in the fourth fight I’m gonna continue doing what I’ve been doing the past previous ones.”
Straus even believes Freire is shook like a halfway crook and scared to look him in the eye.
“The scoreboard doesn’t mean nothing to me. Yeah the scoreboard’s what we base facts off of but mentally, MENTALLY, he knows what it is. Going into that third fight he knew what it was you know what I mean? He didn’t wanna see me! Why? Because he got so lucky in choking me out, that was his only option. I don’t look at it as ‘oh we’re getting even.’ It is what it is. On paper yeah he’s won two fights, but mentally you’ve only won one fair fight and he knows it.”
And in case you thought Straus might lack confidence going into the fourth fight after such a long time off he’s here to tell you that ain’t happening.
“You know walking into there I’m not looking like I have to (get) motivated because I won the last time. I’m still pushing to win you know what I mean? I’m still looked at as if I’ve never won a fight. You know I still have this chip on my shoulder. I’m gonna continue to have a chip on my shoulder.”
It’s the champion’s right to have a little swagger, and he’s prepared to show all comers in 2017 just what he’s made of as they hunger for a shot at the belt — everybody except A.J. McKee.
“You know stay hungry. You’ll get your chance and I’ll be more than willing to feed you. It is what it is, you know there’s a couple of guys. Weichel I definitely respect. Sanchez I respect. A guy like (A.J.) McKee you can’t really say his name to me without knowing his statistics. Don’t come hollering that you want a belt when you’re talking about fighting gimme fights.”
I’m sure McKee will have something to say about that in the future but in the present it’s time for Straus to go to Uncasville and defend his crown for the first of many times in 2017.
“Shit, I really want, ay I’m trying to fight as much as possible. If I can get four this year that’d be perfect. If I can get more than that I would love it.”
Complete audio of our interview is embedded in the video player above and complete Bellator MMA coverage can be found right here.