“I am the toughest fighter on the planet,” Freire told MMAjunkie after his weekend win over Justin Wilcox. “I have gone through three tournaments, which is a very difficult way to compete. Each fight is more difficult than the last, and I went through that three times. It’s not any person or athlete who can endure that sacrifice. Here I am for the third time, fighting for my dream.”
Freire (20-2 MMA, 9-2 BMMA) entered this past weekend’s Bellator 108 event as the No. 10-ranked 145-pounder in the world according to the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA featherweight rankings. His lone career losses to date have come in either a tournament final (a Season 2 bout with Joe Warren) or a championship fight (a January meeting with Pat Curran), and both came via split decision.
In Bellator’s Season 9 tournament, he downed UFC vet Diego Nunes, fellow Brazilian Fabricio Guerreiro and Wilcox to claim his second Bellator tourney title. With the win, Freire earns another shot at a championship belt, but when he’ll fight for it is still an unknown for the time being.
Daniel Straus, a man Freire has previously defeated, recently claimed the belt from former champ Curran, and Bellator officials have yet to decide if they want to book a rematch or give Freire his chance.
You can imagine what Freire feels is fair.
“Bellator now has a new dynamic, where if someone loses a very close championship bout, that fighter can have an automatic rematch,” Freire said. “But I think Curran clearly lost. There was no contesting that loss. That’s why I feel it would be unfair to give Curran an automatic rematch. There’s no reason why. He lost as clearly as the time when Eddie Alvarez lost to Michael Chandler, yet Eddie got a rematch. I didn’t understand that decision.”
Bellator’s Season 9 slate wraps up next week with Bellator 109, and the promotion will go on a short hiatus while executives map out the promotion’s 2014 plan. Freire said he’ll fight again if a rematch is booked, as he doesn’t feel comfortable with a long delay.
“Such a long period of inactivity would be very uncomfortable for me,” Freire said. “It would be unsettling, and just like I feel Curran shouldn’t get a rematch, I also would feel it’s unjust that I may not be able to fight until summer. I would rather fight than to sit around wondering about what’s going to happen.”
But if Freire gets to make the call, he and Straus will be meeting very soon with a championship belt on the line. And if the 26-year-old is finally able to wrap that championship around his waist, he’ll feel his claims of greatness will be unquestionably proven.
“I feel I’m the toughest competitor in this weight class,” Freire said. “But I need the belt in my possession so I can prove to the public that I am the man.”