Bellator 209: Patricio Pitbull Welcomes Idea of Featherweight Grand Prix

Patricio Pitbull
Patricio Pitbull Credit: Dave Mandel/

Patricio Pitbull has his attention set on 145lb title challenger Emmanuel Sanchez, but he’s open to a featherweight grand prix moving forward.

Featherweight champion Patricio Pitbull (properly Patricio Freire) is in Tel Aviv, Israel this week at Bellator 209, where he puts his featherweight title on the line against Emmanuel Sanchez. For Pitbull, it’s the second title defense of his second title reign, and just his third fight since 2014 against someone other than Daniel Straus or Daniel Weichel.

The bout is also he second straight overseas, after spending seven years fighting exclusively in the U.S.

“To me it’s a wonderful thing,” Pitbull told Cageside Press about fighting in the Holy Land. Noting that his fighting career has taken him around the globe, including Rome, Italy in his last fight, the featherweight champion said he’d be visiting Jerusalem and Bethlehem while in Israel. Plus, there’s the fans for whom “I’m looking forward to putting on a show.”

For Pitbull, the trip to Tel Aviv is a make-up date after his earlier headlining bout against Daniel Weichel last year was pulled from Bellator 188. That was due to Freire suffering a knew injury.

Despite the trip from Brazil over to Israel, Pitbull has no concerns about the weight cut, something that occasionally dogs fighters traveling overseas. “I think actually it’s going to be better,” he revealed.

In the U.S., where Pitbull had been fighting between 2010 and 2017, “the hours are before our time [in Brazil], two or five hours before our time,” he explained. Patricio fights out of Natal, where he was born. “Last time, I fought in Rome, they were four hours ahead, and it actually had a better effect on me and my weight.” Which makes this a trip he’s looking forward to. “I believe it’s going to be better for me.”

2017 saw Pitbull in something of a feud with Bellator, his longtime home, due to his inability to fight as much as he wanted. That seems to be resolved, with Bellator 209 coming just four months after his split decision win over Weichel at Bellator 203.

When it comes to staying active, “I would like to fight three times per year,” Pitbull said, depending on the nature of the fight and barring any injury. “Because I’m not getting any younger. Ideally for me, I’d like to fight every four months.” With extended time away from the cage, “I didn’t do so well. I stopped working. So I think every four, five months at most between fights would be ideal.”

On upcoming challenger Emmanuel Sanchez, Pitbull foresees a fast pace. “He’s a guy the brings a lot of pressure and volume,” Patricio explained, “so I need to be ready all the time. He never stops, so I’ve prepared myself for that.”

That said, the champion feels that Sanchez is “going to pay for his pressure. Either in the second or third rounds, he won’t be able to take all my punches anymore, and he’ll be knocked out.”

Despite the bold prediction, Pitbull doesn’t want to look too far ahead. Still, he told us that long-term, “my personal desire is to keep breaking records, defend my title, and if the opportunity was there, to conquer different weight classes.” In his own division, there’s not just one name that has his eye — but rather all of them. “Everyone from my weight class. Every single featherweight that’s in Bellator,” Pitbull explained, no matter their stature in the promotion, “I’ve got my eyes on him.”

As he put it later, “a champion that’s true accepts all challenges.”

“That’s something that I have,” he stated. Never wanting to back down from a fight, Pitbull added that “I’m the kind of guy that won’t back away from a challenge. So if you want to fight me, I’m going to fight you.”

Throughout 2018, the story in Bellator has been tournaments. The promotion was founded on the concept, and this year, Scott Coker has brought them back with a bang. The heavyweight grand prix is drawing to a close, while the welterweight grant prix is just getting started.

It’s a concept that interests Patricio Pitbull. “I’d love to have a featherweight grand prix. The only thing I really don’t like about tournaments is when they’re on the same night.” However, the current Bellator structure, with fights taking place with a few months between them, Pitbull feels “is a great idea.”

Maybe sometime in 2019?

Bellator 209 takes place Thursday, November 15 at the Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv, Israel. The main card will be broadcast the following day, on Paramount Network and DAZN, following prelims streamed online.

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