Interview: Patricky Freire on using Benson Henderson fight to get back into title hunt, Josh Thompson controversy, more
The lightweight division in Bellator MMA is certainly going through a very interesting period. At Bellator NYC, the former champion, Michael Chandler lost the title to Brent Primus, albeit due to an injury. And with Chandler out of the picture for a considerable amount of time, it once again opens doors for former contender, Patricky “Pitbull” Freire to work his way back into title contention.
However, the next hurdle in his path is arguably his toughest to date. Former WEC and UFC Lightweight Champion, Benson Henderson, who has had mixed fortunes since his Bellator debut, is eyeing a shot at the lightweight gold himself.
Both men will cross paths in what will essentially be a title eliminator at Bellator 183 this Saturday. There is more than just title aspirations hanging in the balance, as Patricky’s brother, Patricio got injured during his fight with Henderson last year in August. I caught up with Patricky to talk about his upcoming fight, his victory over Josh Thompson and about his future in an exclusive interview.
Right off the bat Patricky, I wanted to get your thoughts on the Josh Thompson fight, with there being an accidental headbutt. While CSAC didn’t overturn the result, what is your take on what happened?
Pitbull: About the Thompson fight, it’s very irritating because it’s a clear hand (uppercut) and win he’s trying to take away from me. Everyone that looks at the review will see that I was backing away from him, and he comes in and he hits me with his head; he projects his head (towards) mine. It was nothing more than a clash of heads - it was definitely not a headbutt from me.
Because I was the one that got hit with an illegal shot. So if anyone had a reason to complain, it should be me. But I didn’t feel a thing, and when he stood up, (you) could see he was very well. He feints and goes for a double leg, and I hit him with an uppercut. So I don’t know why he’s making this up. He’s trying to change the result so that he could try again (to win).
So that’s why he tried to take away my win, and it’s really sad and irritating to really think about it, but I’m now thinking about the next fight. But it didn’t sit well with me and my team, with what he tried to do.
You were supposed to face Campos back in July. What was your initial reaction when you were told you’d face Bendo instead?
Pitbull: I was very happy, and I didn’t really have to think about accepting this fight. I (was) given a fight (different) to the Campos one, and get the 18th win of my career against another great name. So it was a no-brainer.
We all know about Bendo’s credentials and his accolades as a fighter. Do you think the fight with Bendo would put you on the fast - track to a title shot?
Pitbull: Yeah, I believe that with a win against Henderson; I’m hundred percent sure that they will give me a title shot next.
You suffered an injury late last year. How do you feel going into what many see as the biggest fight of your career? How has the training camp come along for the fight?
Pitbull: I’ve pretty much had two camps one after the other because before, it was for my fight with Campos. Then they offered me the (Benson) Henderson fight, so there was no rest between. And I’ve pretty much run out of patience, and I just want to get this fight done (with) already.
I’ve prepared really well, and we had two camps on top of each other, so that helps me going into this fight. And my brother (Patricio) was a big help during this camp, as he gave me some tips regarding this fight. He fought Benson before, so he helped me and told me what to do and what not to do. He helped me a lot in making adjustments, and that was very helpful for me.
Benson’s last two losses came by decisions, and he looked very tentative even against Patricio last year. Is that something you sense would give you the opening you need to land those big bombs? How do you analyse your opponent?
Pitbull: He was a little bit shy in both the fights, but that might have had a little bit to do with his knee injury - he has had a torn ligament in his knee. That might have hindered his performance. But even then, he was in some big wars; he has fought thrice in Bellator MMA out of which two of them were wars, and he performed really well, so I applaud him for his efforts and his performances in those fights.
It was something that really is difficult, because some of the fights (I’ve fought in), was with a torn ligament too, so I know what he’s been through. But he says he will be the best Benson Henderson in the Bellator cage, and of course, I take it into consideration. But I learned from his last three fights when he was on the ground - his last three fights were key for me.
And I can try to predict a little bit what he may have (picked up) from them, but otherwise, I can try to learn from his losses in his Bellator fights, and train for what’s coming, and expecting the best him so that my hand will be raised.
A win would catapult you in front of the pack for a shot at the Lightweight title. What do you make of Chandler’s injury, and you being in a position to take advantage of the situation with a victory?
Pitbull: Yeah, it's tough to see a fighter lose a title in a situation like that (Chandler getting injured). I don’t really know what happened, but from what I read, he took a kick to the thigh and the nerve - the “foot drop”, and it’s really not how you want to see someone lose the title. I don’t know the extent of that (injury), but of course, I see finishing Benson Henderson as my way to get to the title shot, and I think I can get that (done).
I know the entire process is ahead; first of all, I need to think that I’m fighting for the title, need to get back to fight for the title and all that. But my focus right now is on Benson Henderson; after I beat him, I’m probably going to start thinking about everything (else). Right now, my focus is on what’s going to happen on September 23rd.
Finally Pitbull, what can the fans expect come September 23rd in your fight against Henderson?
Pitbull: You can expect a very well balanced fight, a very good fight. And I feel very motivated and very hungry to get that win.
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