Emmanuel Sanchez finally gets to throw down with Patricio Pitbull again this April.
That Bellator featherweight grand prix semifinal has been a long time coming. The tournament was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, of course. And when you consider that the pair first fought in 2018, with “El Matador” losing a unanimous decision, the rematch has been brewing even longer.
Earlier this week, however, Bellator officials announced the return date for the grand prix: April 2, at Bellator 255. The winner of the Pitbull vs. Sanchez semifinal will go on to face AJ McKee in the final round, with one million dollars on the line.
Sanchez (20-4) was complimentary of the featherweight (and lightweight) champ in a media session to promote the bout, noting that “Patricio’s a great fighter, he’s accomplished so much, and done so much in Bellator. Fought the best of the best throughout this whole run. He taught me a very valuable lesson the first time, and I’m very excited to show to the world what he taught me.”
But while Sanchez has his focus solely on the champ (plus finalist McKee), Pitbull’s concentration appears to be split. For weeks, the Bellator double-champ has been busy calling for a cross-promotional fight with Max Holloway. That’s a desire he reiterated during this week’s media session.
Sanchez doesn’t believe he’s being overlooked, however. In fact, he sees exactly where the champ is coming from, and takes no disrespect from it. “I get it. Everyone’s trying to make a name for themself while we’re not being active right now,” Sanchez told Cageside Press. “With everything that’s going on in the world, it’s difficult to fight as often as we’d like, and I’m sure to stay relevant. So in any way, shape or form I understand where he’s at, wanting to cement his status as better than those guys. But it is what it is, as Max Holloway would say.”
His own focus, said Sanchez, is on the two men he needs to be fixated on: Patricio Pitbull, and AJ McKee. “I know that there’s obviously great fighters everywhere, but I believe that, with what we have now, I’m going to bring some more excitement to the table,” Sanchez added.
As to the long wait to get to this semifinal fight, Sanchez admitted that it has been “a little bit” frustrating. “But patience is a virtue. It’s been a long time, but given the situation that we’ve had with the COVID pandemic, I’ve still been very blessed, fortunate and grateful to still go out and fight again, and be here talking to you right now.”
Bellator, he noted, has been doing great things, “and it’s only getting bigger and better.”
Watch the full Bellator on Showtime media scrum with Emmanuel Sanchez above.