Bellator 228: “Pitbull vs. Archuleta” takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., this weekend (Sat., Sept. 28, 2019), featuring “Pitbull” Patricio Freire (29-4) — the reigning “champ-champ” at 145- and 155-pounds — against Juan Archuleta (23-1) in the Featherweight Grand Prix main event.
With an active 18-fight win streak, including an impressive Eduardo Dantas knockout in his last bout (highlights), Archuleta is as dangerous as any fighter to step to “Pitbull” in his career. “The Spaniard” has only one submission in 24 fights, which can mean only one thing: Archuleta is really good at separating men from consciousness. And that’s absolutely fine with Freire. That’s because despite even though his submissions (11) run slightly ahead of knockouts (10) in his career, it’s the power of his punch that opponents fear most. Indeed, “Pitbull” is deceptively formidable at a diminutive stature. Standing 5’5” with a 65-inch reach, his smaller size means two things — he moves quicker and packs more muscle per square inch than his opponents.
MMAmania.com recently spoke with the reigning and defending champion about this Featherweight tournament and whether or not he’d like to be in a Lightweight version, too.
“I would for sure. I mean I didn’t have to be in this (Featherweight) tournament, but I’m motivated by challenge, so I’d be motivated by challenging myself in a Lightweight tournament and defending my other belt.”
In Freire’s view he wouldn’t feel satisfied as a man (or as an athlete) sitting on the sidelines during this Featherweight Grand Prix to wait for the winner.
“I didn’t even really need to be in this tournament. I could have just sat on top of my belt and waited for all these guys to take each other out and fight the winner, but I’m the one with the biggest name as the double world champion, so I’m risking everything that I have. That’s what motivates me — to keep challenging myself and keep coming out on top.”
He wanted to be absolutely clear about this point so he reaffirmed it with a follow-up e-mail.
“I never gave (Bellator) the option. The moment I heard about the tournament I told them I’d be on it. It never crossed my mind not to be part of the tournament and I made that very clear.”
How does Freire feel about Archuleta a title challenger? Does a four-year win streak make Archuleta his most confident opponent to date?
“He’s a very good fighter, a deserving contender. He’s very well rounded and a tough challenge, but I’m better than him and I’ll show it defending my title again. The muscle head I fought last time [Michael Chandler] was the most confident guy facing me in a title fight and the world saw what happened with him. It doesn’t matter if he’s coming confident or not, the winner will still be me.”
I asked Freire to describe sharing a card with a fellow Brazilian legend like Lyoto Machida, someone who has also found success in two different weight classes.
“It’s a big honor for me. Lyoto is a legend and he’s a friend. He’s done great things in this sport and is showing he still has a lot more left. He has a teammate on the card and I have a teammate as well, Leandro Higo, so we are four Brazilians facing tough opponents. I hope we can all be victorious that night and have much to celebrate after.”
Does Freire feel like a “locker room leader” at this point after having spent so many years in Bellator and accomplished so many things in this sport?
“I think that’s something others would have to answer about me. But I do receive a lot of respect from other fighters in Bellator and other organizations, and I’m glad that they recognize what I do.”
What adjustments has Freire made in training now that he carries world titles in two different weight classes?
“I started this camp a bit heavier than I did for my last three Featherweight fights, because I had bulked up to fight at Lightweight. So we started everything a bit earlier than usual, and of course we had some training practices suited to what I would be facing in the fight. Every camp is different, as every opponent is different.”
How hard would it be to make a Lightweight title defense during the middle of this Featherweight tournament if asked?
“I don’t think I’d have much problems with that if I’m injury free and they give me a reasonable time between fights.”
Has Bellator given Freire any indication they would run a show in Brazil — ideally one headlined by the “Pitbull” brothers?
“I hope so. We hear things here and there, but nothing concrete. It would be great to headline Bellator’s first show in Brazil and if ends up taking place in 2020 during the tournament all the better.”
Is there any chance Freire would go down in weight to fight for a third world title?
“For sure. I’ve asked about that. Ideally that would’ve happened before I started in the tournament. But after I win the tournament, that’s part of the plans. I want to hold three titles simultaneously and I’m working very hard to make that possible.”
Bellator MMA indicated that winners can call out their opponents for the next round of the tournament. Mr. Freire, who do you want to face after Archuleta?
“All the guys who said shit about me, they all can line up to get their beatings.”
Well then on a different note, what is the most dangerous thing that Juan Archuleta brings to this world title fight?
“I’m not singling out only one area as it’s MMA and everything can happen. I recognize him as a deserving challenger, but I’ll deal with it accordingly. I’ve prepared for everything and I’ll be looking to add another defense to my title.”
Finally, is Freire able to enjoy all of his success with his family despite the demands of being a world champion in two weight classes?
“I’m a simple man. Every family time is quality time to me. I always bring my son and my wife to my fights, and now we have a second son on the way. I want them to live these moments with him and to build an even bigger legacy they can be proud of.”
Obrigado, champ! Complete coverage of Bellator 228: “Pitbull vs. Archuleta” resides here at MMAmania.com 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.