Bellator 228: “Pitbull vs. Archuleta” takes place TONIGHT (Sat., Sept. 28, 2019) inside The Forum in Inglewood, California. Bellator’s “champ-champ,” “Pitbull” Patricio Freire (29-4), puts his 145-pound title on the line against top division contender, Juan Archuleta (23-1), in the Featherweight Grand Prix main event match.
Freire could have just as easily sat out the tournament and waited to face the man who won the finals and the $1 million grand prize, but if you know anything about the “Pitbull” brothers you know that’s not how they operate. Having settled a score with Michael Chandler back in May, Freire has been hungry to take a bite out of even more competition.
Archuleta promises to be just as fearsome a foe as any Freire has faced. “The Spaniard” brings a win streak into the cage this evening that stretches all the way back to Oct. 2015, and by destroying former champion Eduardo Dantas at Bellator 222 he earned not only a spot in this tournament but the right to fight a current champion.
MMAmania.com recently spoke with Archuleta about seizing his “Pitbull” opportunity tonight, even though he hasn’t forgotten about calling out Kyoji Horiguchi at Bantamweight.
“That was my way to try to get the Horiguchi fight, but him and his teammates, his team and his coaches turned it down — so, you know, the next in line was Patricio and the Featherweight tournament.”
Maybe he can come back to that match up later, but for now he’s got his eyes on the prize at 145 pounds in the opening round of the Featherweight Grand Prix.
“Yeah, that makes things great for me. That’s the plan for me — going in there and taking out the No. 1 seed right away and taking his spot and you know being able to defend the title and win the Featherweight Grand Prix.”
Easier said than done. How do you take out a relentless world champion like Freire?
“I’m definitely not going to go out there and try to force the knockout. With (Eduardo) Dantas it just fell into place like it was supposed to. That was my gameplan and he got over anxious and that’s how I see this fight going — (the) same thing. He’s going to get over anxious and want to keep pushing the action, and I’m going to get the job done.”
Archuleta knows just how dangerous Freire can be in any fight regardless of the size of his opponent.
“He’s a stud. He is the best that Bellator has to offer in the lighter weights and it makes for a great match up for me. I’m excited and this is what I wanted. This is what I’ve worked so hard to put myself in position for, to fight the best in the world, to prove that I’m one of those guys as well.”
Beating a “champ-champ” would certainly open up opportunities to fight for world titles in multiple weight classes.
“Well I have a long task ahead of me, and that’s some of the best Featherweights in the world right now. To be thinking ahead of that would be foolish, but I’m definitely going to work and gear myself toward that and that’s the ultimate plan for my career. My legacy is to do that, but right now I have a long four fights ahead of me to prove I’m the best Featherweight in the world.”
Even though Bellator is letting the participants in the Grand Prix call out their second round opponents to potentially set the brackets, Archuleta is coy about who he’d want with a win.
“The next best, you know, whoever that is. I’ve got to wait and see how these fights play out and who wins, granted (that) I win as well, then whoever is open to take that has the highest rank I guess is who I want. I just want to go through this tournament knowing that I beat the best in every round, that I didn’t try to run or duck anyone, I went out there and fought the guy that had the most fights and best record behind him.”
Who does Archuleta think is the best out of the four fighters at Bellator 226 who have already advanced in the tournament?
“The one that’s been the best to date has been Emmanuel Sanchez. He’s had a great career thus far and continues to show his dominance. I think that night belonged to him. Borics as well is a stud, and Carvalho and all those guys, and Campos looked great against a former champ as well, but (the best performance) belonged to Emmanuel Sanchez that night.”
Sanchez may want to use that to lobby for a post fight bonus from Scott Coker. Archuleta, on the other hand, may want to use Sanchez’ fight with Pitbull to scout his next bout.
“Yeah, you can take a lot from it. Pitbull’s style is obviously overwhelming, you can’t get complacent, you have to stay disciplined on some of the advantages you get on Pitbull. You can’t make mistakes you know? The fight game’s so tight and seconds could change the fight right away, and that’s what happened in that fight — seconds changed it. That’s what I’m looking to avoid myself. I want to follow up on the mistakes Pitbull makes and take advantage of them.”
The one piece of advice “El Matador” would give “The Spaniard” going into this bout is to not hold anything back and be just as aggressive as Freire.
“He fought him scared, you know? You can’t fight scared. You’ve got to leave it all on the line when you’re in a title fight. That’s what you build you whole career for, because you might never get another shot again.”
Just like Alexander Hamilton before him, Juan “The Spaniard” Archuleta is not going to miss his shot.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of Bellator 228 “Pitbull vs. Archuleta” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.
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