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Darrion Caldwell: Patricio Freire ‘dodging me’ in Bellator featherweight grand prix

Darrion Caldwell will have to get past two more opponents — Adam Borics and the A.J. McKee vs. Derek Campos winner — to get a crack at the Bellator featherweight champion.

Darrion Caldwell believes Bellator champion Patricio Freire is trying to avoid fighting him in the featherweight grand prix.

During the selection process for the quarterfinals bracket Saturday night at Bellator 228, Freire could choose to fight anyone due to the “champ’s choice” twist. As the titleholder, he had the power to override any earlier selection.

Freire wanted to fight in March 2020, which already had a fight booked between Caldwell and Pedro Carvalho. Freire, who defeated Juan Archuleta earlier in the night, chose to fight Carvalho, moving former bantamweight champion Caldwell to a January 2020 fight with Adam Borics.

“I don’t think he’s dodging me; I think he’s dodging – yeah, I think he’s dodging me, let’s be honest,” Caldwell said of Freire at the Bellator 228 post-fight press conference in Inglewood, California. “I don’t think he wants to fight me. It was strategic on his part. The three fighters he doesn’t want to fight are myself, Adam, and A.J. (McKee). His coaches did a good job strategizing and putting us all on the same side (of the bracket).”

Caldwell stayed alive in the tournament with a unanimous-decision win over Henry Corrales on Saturday. “The Wolf,” as expected, used a wrestling-heavy approach to end Corrales’ hot streak. Caldwell didn’t win over the fans attending the card at The Forum, but he doesn’t mind.

“I’ve been the heel,” Caldwell said of the boos from the crowd during and after his win. “I am the guy that people don’t want to fight. Even though Adam might seem like he wants to fight me up here, he doesn’t want this work, you don’t want these problems. At the end of the day, January is going to come around, and we’re going to scrap. Just like I did tonight – shout out to Henry Corrales – avenging a loss for Aaron Pico is something I’m going to do again.”

During the press conference, Borics mentioned to Caldwell that he could have opted to fight Borics straight away. Caldwell, of course, initially decided to fight a TBD opponent in March 2020. Caldwell said it had nothing to do with not fighting Borics, but simply wanting more time to prepare and get better.

“I’ve just been with my team for two months, and I want to continue to grow,” Caldwell said. “The more time I have with my coaches, the more I grow. But I only need two days to beat that ass.”

Borics, the last fighter left without an opponent when Freire made the No. 8 pick, had his fingers crossed Freire would pick him instead of overriding a different matchup.

“If Pitbull picked me, it’s my dream,” Borics said. “I was hoping he would pick me. But it’s OK. It doesn’t matter who is next, I will be ready, and I will beat [Freire] and become the world champion soon.”

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