The featherweight quater-final match between Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (15-1) and Georgi Karakhanyan (14-3-1) at Bellator 37 featured arguably the two best fighters in the tournament. But after 11 minutes of action, Freire surprised many onlookers, coming away with a dominant and thoroughly one-sided TKO victory.
With that win, Patricio looks like the favorite to win the tournament and earn a shot at the Bellator featherweight title. Still, even after showing strong boxing and grappling and transitioning between the two with ease, Freire thinks he can do even better.
“I feel like I was better on every aspect of the fight, but I feel that I can show much more than what I’ve shown,” he told ProMMAnow.com. “That wasn’t my maximum.”
Although he’s only 23 years of age, Patricio has competed professionally for several years alongside his brother Patricky (9-1), who knocked out Toby Imada this past weekend at Bellator 39 to move on to the lightweight finals.
Both carry the “Pitbull” nickname, which seems appropriate given that they’ve gone the distance a combined six times. But Patricio said there isn’t any special meaning behind the two brothers getting the same moniker.
“We’re not to blame on the nicknames; it was our teacher (laughs).”
Patricio went undefeated on the talented Brazilian MMA circuit, beating the likes of Fernando Vieira, Nova Uniao’s Giovani Diniz, and Paulo Dantas. Asked about his toughest, most memorable fight prior to fighting stateside, Freire pointed to his fight with Vieira, which he won by unanimous decision.
“[He’s] very good on the ground, Jiu Jitsu world champion, super strong physically,” Patricio said. “It was a very tough fight, but I was able to beat him with a broken foot.”
Both of the Pitbull brothers have had to adjust to the different rules for fighting in the U.S. Patricky noted the lack of stomps under the unified rules as a big change he had to make in his own game. For Patricio, his biggest adjustment has to do with the judges’ preference for wrestling over an active guard game.
“The ground game, if you are on the bottom and trying to submit you’re winning the fight,” he said. “Here, all you have to do is stay on top and the round is yours. I have no idea why. I also don’t understand the ‘takedown gives you the round’ kind of thing.”
Patricio reached the finals of the inaugural featherweight tournament, losing a split decision to current champion Joe Warren. This time around, Freire feels more comfortable going through the format.
“Of course, I’m giving more time for my body to rest,” Patricio said. “On the last tournament, I trained so much I made the final over-trained. This time it will be different. I keep training hard, but the rest time is bigger.”
Asked if he felt he did enough to beat Warren in their fight, he responded, “I feel the judges could have given me a 10-8 on that first round. With that fight I learned the value of giving my body a rest in order to recuparate proper, know the right amount of practice per day. There was never a time a coach of mine told me to work more, they would come to me and tell me to stop. Now I know when to stop, when to rest, when to train. Now I’m also taking supplements. I don’t like it, but I understand I have to.”
Rest isn’t always easy to come by for Patricio, who has suffered from insomnia since he was young. You wouldn’t know it from watching him perform in the cage.
“Although I’m having trouble sleeping, for the Karakhanyan fight I slept 3 hours before the weigh-in day and 2 hours on the fight day,” he said.
Before Freire can think about a rematch with Warren, he needs to get by his semi-finals opponent Wilson Reis (12-2). Pitbull defeated Reis by unanimous decision last year, but with Reis’s world class Brazilian Jiu Jitsu credential and dominant performance against Zac George in the first round, Patricio isn’t taking anything for granted.
“I thought he was much stronger, very explosive and much faster than the last time I saw him fight,” Freire said of Reis’s first round submission win over George. “My strategy will be the same as always, not to think on what my opponents will try to do on the fight, but on what I’m going to do on it.”
Patricio asked to thank the following: I want to thank my sponsor Fifth Round Clothing; there will be a personalized shirt of mine coming there, so please take a look and buy it. I also want to thank all my trainers and teams, my father, my mother who gives me [support] ever since I was a kid.