Emmanuel Sanchez will face Patricio “Pitbull” Freire on April 2 at Bellator 255. The two men have crossed hands before for the featherweight crown back in 2018 at Bellator 209, and while Sanchez came up short, his eye has never been off the prize.
This time, Sanchez has hardened his skin in the early rounds of the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix by securing victories over the likes of Tywan Claxton and Daniel Weichel to find himself face to face with Freire again. With the time that passed and the experience he has gained training and fighting during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sanchez is taking a lot of lessons from the time that has passed.
Sanchez told MMANews, “I still see the same Patricio Pitbull, I still see those holes and those openings that I know I can capitalize on. As great of a fighter as he is, and everything that he’s done throughout this Grand Prix, and even outside the Grand Prix. You know him being the ‘champ-champ’, for me and for my style, for what I bring to the table. I feel like I’m the worst fighter for him, and he knows that.”
Two of Freire’s last four opponents went the distance with him and gave him a hell of a fight to lose by decision. Sanchez was one of those men and having progressed through the Grand Prix to get to this point, especially during a global pandemic has made Sanchez look at his blessings in preparation for Bellator 255.
“I feel like a little bit of everywhere, my fight needed to get canceled,” Sanchez said, reflecting on when Bellator had to postpone the Grand Prix. “The world needed to get shut down and everything that happened in order for me to grow and excel, and to be the fighter and the man that I am now. I’m happy for it, I’m going to be a COVID champ.”
While Sanchez is well aware of all the bad that has come and affected a lot of people in the past year, he credits the mindset of the martial arts culture for being able to persevere and make the best out of the situation he is in.
Sounds like the mind of a champion, and he might be one come April.