Bellator 209: “Pitbull vs. Sanchez” airs this Friday night (Nov. 16, 2018) on Paramount Network from inside Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv, Israel, featuring a main event between Featherweight champion “Pitbull” Patricio Freire (27-4) defending against “El Matador” Emmanuel Sanchez (17-3).
Freire is a two-time Featherweight champion, having first collected the gold strap at Bellator 123 in 2014 then subsequently re-acquiring it at Bellator 178 last year. The hard-hitting Brazilian looks to pick up his 28th win and make his second consecutive defense of the belt he worked so hard to get back. Sanchez, meanwhile, is working just as hard ... possibly even harder. He comes in on a four-fight win streak with back-to-back submission choke victories. His win over former champion Daniel Straus cemented him as a top contender in the division and a subsequent win over former UFC fighter Sam Sicilia was the icing on that proverbial cake.
Sanchez recently chatted with MMAmania.com about finally getting his crack at a Bellator world title and how he plans to maximize this opportunity in Israel.
“Oh, you better believe it my man. This is a long time coming. I’ve waited patiently, worked very hard, and it’s time to go make the dream come true. I’m just gonna stop [Pitbull], man. I’m gonna put it on him, that’s it, that’s the best way I can put it.”
Given the chance to pick where, when and how he could win the fight over the course of five rounds, Sanchez instead said there would be plenty of moments to capitalize on.
“Yeah, I’m not a guy that says, ‘Ah man first round knockout’ or ‘this round submission, blah blah blah,’ you know? I’m gonna take what I see. I’m an opportunist. So whatever opportunity I have to go out there and put this man out, I will do it. I’m prepared to beat him up for five rounds, but I don’t think I’m going to have to — but if I have to, I will.”
Of course, Sanchez isn’t taking what Patricio Freire brings to the table lightly. In his four losses, two were split decisions, only one was a decision, and one was an injury (technical knockout). “Pitbull” is as tough and fearless as his nickname implies, but to Sanchez he’s a man and not a dog.
“I know he’s a great fighter, he’s obviously great everywhere, and got a lot of experience. That just doesn’t mean anything (though). He’s another human being, he’s another man like me, and I’m just excited to go out there and lay it all on him.”
Even though Freire has more wins by submission (11) than by knockout (nine) it’s his relentless in-your-face striking that fighters remember best ... and fear the most.
“How does any boxer get ready to go out there and fight a heavy puncher you know — Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez? You know how does Mayweather get ready to fight any young kid ready to go out there and try to knock him out, you know? In combat sports people always think, ‘oh man he hits so hard.’ Everybody hits hard man! These little gloves? Anyone can put anyone out.”
Sanchez isn’t afraid of the “Pitbull” power, though. Maybe it’s the size disparity (5’9” to 5’5” plus a whopping 11” reach advantage) or maybe it’s just too big a moment for him to falter now.
“I’m not stupid. I fight smart and I’ll take the bull head on (by) the horns. For me it’s ‘the bull is stronger, but the matador is smarter.’ I live by that and I show it each and every time I go in there, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do at Bellator 209.”
A few fighters have groused that Sanchez jumped to the front of the line for a title shot after beating Sam Sicilia in April. The haters will just have to wait their turn.
“It is what it is, you know? I think this fight was inevitable. I think this is the fight Scott Coker and Rich Chou wanted to see. Of course Darrion (Caldwell) is great, (Aaron) Pico, everyone wants a piece of the the Pitbull Brothers, so to me it’s like, ‘whatever.’ Of course they’re great fighters (and) the Pitbull Brothers want to fight everybody, too. I’ve been in Bellator for five years now, so to me it doesn’t matter, I’m the one who got the fight.”
If they still complain Sanchez’ response is simple: CHECK THE RESUME. With wins over former champions like Marcos Galvao and Daniel Straus, his time is here and his time is now.
“Right now I’m the most deserving guy. I’m quiet, I’m humble, I work hard, and I earned this. I didn’t talk my way into this, I didn’t trash talk my way into this, I didn’t call anyone out into this. I just knew that I wanted the champion, and I asked for that (back) when it was Pitbull and Weichel. I said, ‘I want the winner.’ It just happened to be Pitbull — wouldn’t matter if it was Weichel.”
His confidence heading into Tel Aviv may not strike people as “quiet” or “humble,” but four quality wins in a row say he’s ready ... and that “Pitbull” may soon be ready for non-title bouts.
“Once I go and take this man out, then anyone who called Pitbull out, they can fight Pitbull then.”
In closing, Sanchez doesn’t mind if anyone thinks this isn’t his time or should be someone else’s. He’s ready to seize the moment and the Featherweight world title.
“Truthfully, I guess people doubt me. I don’t get the respect I deserve from some people. That’s not saying from interviewers or commentators, or fans, but I guess it’s the fighters, you know? Or maybe it’s because it’s an intelligent fear. That’s why they don’t call me out or say my name. That’s smart of them I guess.”
If they want to win the belt after this weekend, they may not have a choice.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Pitbull vs. Sanchez” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.
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