Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler may not like reigning featherweight champion Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire but he respects him stepping up to the challenge.
At Bellator 221 this weekend, the Brazilian 145-pound champion will move up in weight to challenge Chandler for his title but this grudge match goes far beyond any belts up for grabs.
Instead the foundations in this fight are built on pure disdain shared between the two athletes after Chandler decimated ‘Pitbull’s older brother, Patricky, on two past occasions before then engaging in a very public war of words.
The younger ‘Pitbull’ has lobbed cheating accusations at Chandler in the past and that never sat well with the multi-time Bellator champion, which ultimately led to this fight finally coming together.
Chandler admits there is always a certain level of respect shared with all of his opponents because they were willing to step into the cage to do battle with him. Nothing has changed ahead of his fight this weekend but Chandler is quick to point out that his respect for ‘Pitbull’ only goes as far as that.
“In this sport, it’s completely OK to respect someone as a fighter and not respect them as a human being,” Chandler said ahead of his fight. “I will always respect Patricio for stepping into the cage with me and I will consider him dangerous up until the moment when I knock him out and we’re done.”
While ‘Pitbull’ does have previous experience at lightweight when he moved up to challenge former UFC champion Benson Henderson, he has primarily spent his entire career fighting at featherweight.
He’s currently riding a three-fight win streak including two defenses of his Bellator title and Chandler is confident he’ll send the Brazilian back to his own division after this fight is finished.
“Patricio is dangerous to other featherweights. Patricio is fast and strong compared to other featherweights. Patricio is a decent size compared to other featherweights,” Chandler said. “But when you step into the cage with a guy who’s 20 to 30 pounds heavier than you, that brings about a lot of challenges. We’re not just talking about a guy who is bigger than him. I’m faster, I’m more athletic, I have the power and I have the cardio. I have the advantages in almost every, single aspect of the game.
“He’s still dangerous and we are still fighting in these tiny four-ounce Bellator gloves so my hands will be up, my head will be on a swivel, I will be ready for anything he throws at me.”
In the end, Chandler believes his size and power will just be too much for ‘Pitbull’ to handle and he expects him to wither and fade under the pressure before the third round is finished.
“He’s going to be in the cage with a guy who does everything that his previous opponents have done except 10 times better, 10 times stronger, 10 times faster, 10 times harder and 10 times nastier,” Chandler said.
“I think he’s going to crumble and I’m looking for a finish in the second or third round most likely.”