Patricio “Pitbull” Freire has already established himself as one of the best featherweights in the world, with little left to prove regardless of the promotion he fights in. But the two-division champion is looking for even bigger things as he prepares to take on Emmanuel Sanchez in the main event of Bellator 255 on Friday at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Freire (31-4) holds both the Bellator lightweight and featherweight championships, and ranks as the top men’s pound-for-pound fighter in the company.
Pitbull still hungry for respect
He comes in on a six-fight winning streak, most recently defending his featherweight title against Pedro Carvalho via first-round knockout in November.
That record has brought Freire plenty of respect, though the fact that he’s in Bellator rather than the UFC limits just how much credit many fans and pundits are willing to heap upon him. But the 33-year-old Brazilian says he knows exactly where he stands in the MMA world: at the top.
“There are doubters out there, and for the people in the media who refuse to recognize me or acknowledge what I have accomplished, I can’t worry about it,” Freire told Yahoo Sports. “It depends on whether they’ve been bought off, as so many of them have been. I’m no doubt the best fighter in MMA. There’s no doubt about that, and I have the mental ability now to go along with the skills I have always had.”
Freire has already beaten Sanchez once before in a unanimous decision victory at Bellator 209 back in 2018. Oddsmakers expect more of the same the second time around, with DraftKings Sportsbook installing Pitbull as the -250 pick over Sanchez (+200) in the rematch.
Winner to face McKee in final
Sanchez (20-4) has won as an underdog before. And despite the result the first time around, he believes he can turn the tables on Friday.
“There’s no pressure on me,” Sanchez told MMA Junkie. “I’m the underdog. I’m expected to get killed and murdered and worse than the first time. Who knows whatever other people want to think and count me out? That’s fine. That’s been the story of my Bellator career thus far.”
Friday’s fight will determine not only the Bellator featherweight champion, but also who gets to move on to the final of the promotion’s grand prix tournament in the division. The winner will take on A.J. McKee in a $1 million final in their next bout.
|Bellator 255 Odds (via DraftKings Sportsbook)|
|Patricio Freire: -250||Emmanuel Sanchez: +200|
|Neiman Gracie: +100||Jason Jackson: -125|
|Jack May: +475||Tyrell Fortune: -715|
|Usman Nurmagomedov: -910||Mike Hamel: +550|
|Kana Watanabe: +145||Alejandra Lara: -182|
For Freire, both the title and the tournament are simply stepping stones toward building an even greater legacy.
“For me, this is only the beginning,” Freire told MMA Junkie. “I’m here to break all the records. This is just the beginning for Patricio ‘Pitbull.’”
Freire and Sanchez headline a 12-fight card at Bellator 255. The co-main event features welterweights Neiman Gracie and Jason Jackson, with DraftKings posting Jackson as a slight -125 favorite in the bout.