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New Bellator champ Patricky Pitbull praises ‘passionate’ Irish fans, aims for title defense record

Freire captured the vacant lightweight championship by second-round TKO in his rematch with Peter Queally.

Patricky Pitbull is the new Bellator MMA lightweight champion.
Bellator MMA lightweight champion Patricky Freire.
Lucas Noonan/Bellator MMA

Last Friday at Bellator 270, Patricky ‘Pitbull’ Freire followed in his brother Patricio’s footsteps at long last and became a world champion. In front of a loud and boisterous crowd in Dublin, Ireland, the Brazilian knockout artist stopped Irish challenger Peter Queally with strikes in the second round to win the title Patricio vacated earlier this year.

For Patricky, it was a dream realized after several previous attempts to win either Bellator tournament finals or title fights ended in defeats. One of the keys to his victory was exploiting Queally’s high guard with a sustained body attack.

“Hitting him to the body was part of the plan to make him open up, also to make him shell up and [punch] at his ears,” Freire told Bloody Elbow (translated by Matheus Aquino). “I knew he’d be worrying about the kicks all the time so it was easier to hit him there and at his ears while he was shelled up. You could see I tagged him with jabs a few times, but he’d close himself right away like in the first fight. So the way to get him was around and under that shell. His guard was pretty tight on the front.”

Freire silenced the Irish fans with his milestone win, but Patricky had nothing but positive things to say about his first time competing in the Republic of Ireland.

“To fight in Ireland was an amazing experience, it was very good,” Freire said. “It was a beautiful crowd, very passionate, very organized. The Irish should feel proud about their fans. After the fight they came to congratulate me, ask for photos. It was very satisfying. Reminded me of the ending of the Rocky IV movie. I stayed in Ireland for a few more days and it was great to run into people who had seen the fight.”

Barring something completely out of left field, it’s expected that Patricky’s first title defense will come against former champion Brent Primus, who trashed Freire’s title fight as “a complete joke” in the lead-up to the matchup. Pitbull gave his early assessment of his presumptive next opponent, along with a prediction.

“He was a guy I was supposed to fight a few times,” Patricky said. “We would fight in Italy and he backed out for apparently no reason. Then a few other times he denied a fight with me. When he was champion I was the number one contender, he was asking for a fight and Bellator had him wait on the sidelines for Chandler. So I think this one has been coming for a long time. He’s a former champion, beat Benson Henderson and no one thought he lost the fight before that. He’s pretty strong on grappling and with kicks, pretty big for the weight class, so it will be an interesting fight. I think I’ll stop him inside three rounds.”

In the promotion’s history, only Michael Chandler has ever defended the belt successfully at least three times, and that was over the space of two separate title reigns. Will Brooks could’ve had the record to himself, but he vacated after his second defense to head to the UFC — and the three previous titleholders relinquished the belt immediately either through losing or (in Patricio’s case) vacating. Patricky is looking to buck that trend and also set a new standard for championship dominance in the division.

“Defending the title is the hardest part,” Freire said when asked whether defending the title would mean more to him than winning the belt. “You climb to the summit only to see there’s a bigger mountain behind it. I want to make history with a record of title defenses and I want to make it exciting. Nine of the guys currently on the top 10 are grapplers, if we go to the top-15 we will see that even the strikers have been fighting as grapplers. I love BJJ, I’m a black belt for 14 years now, but nothing makes people more excited than knockouts. So I’m gonna make these guys fight my fight and take them out one by one. That way I’m sure fans will be happy with my reign as champion.”

By the way, the most title defenses in a single reign by any Bellator champion is Patricio Pitbull’s five, which spanned from 2018 through his featherweight semifinal tournament win over Emmanuel Sanchez. Patricio is expected to rematch current champion A.J. McKee next year.