By Melinda Evette
It’s been a long road to a title fight for Patricky Freire in Bellator MMA. Trudging through the early tournament days, facing and losing to a young Michael Chandler at Bellator 44 in the finals of the lightweight tournament. Chandler won the finals match via unanimous decision, pocketing the $100,000 prize and gaining a title shot against then-lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez. Chandler eventually defeated Alvarez to become champion, setting in motion a series of title defenses and challenges with Alvarez, and later, with Will Brooks.
But even after losing lightweight title defenses and challenge matches, Chandler was never far from Bellator giving him another chance at the title — often in an immediate rematch. If Chandler was Bellator’s favorite son, Patricky Freire would’ve been considered his ugly, fat little brother.
I remember that each round was pretty much starting off equal and then I would get kicked in the nuts.
– Patricky Freire
Bellator 107 bore witness to Freire obtaining a unanimous decision win over Edson Berto. Coming off that win, 2014 looked promising for Freire, as in his next fight at Bellator 113 he scored a knockout of David Rickels in Rickels’ hometown of Wichita, Kansas. That was quickly followed by a technical knockout of Derek Campos in April of that year at Bellator 117. At that point, Patricky started to talk about title contention, making it known that he was ready to challenge.
At September of 2014 , Freire faced fellow title contender Marcin Held, and had his momentum halted by the judges. In a unanimous decision, Held was declared the winner of the fight. With that, the title rumblings Freire had been able to generate in nearly twelve months of domination were silenced.
Bellator was going through its own struggles at the time. The promotion decided upon new leadership and a new direction. President and Bellator MMA founder Bjorn Rebney was out, replaced by a MMA promotional old-timer in Scott Coker.
Gone also was the Bellator staple of determining title challengers by hosting divisional tournaments, although Rebney’s Bellator didn’t always honor what it touted as the clear path to a championship. Multiple winners of different tournament divisions were often pushed aside to make what the promotion deemed a more popular or relevant match. Eddie Alvarez, who lost the lightweight title to Chandler, was able to secure a rematch after two wins – knockouts of Patricky Freire and Shinya Aoki – without winning a tournament first.
While Alvarez and Chandler would go on to a drama-filled path to rematches that included a bout cancellation, due to an Alvarez injury, and legal contractual disputes between Alvarez and Bellator, Patricky Freire went about the business of gaining wins. He defeated — and talked trash to — Saad Awad, who fell via unanimous decision. A decision loss to Derek Anderson interrupted his attempt at a winning streak. That loss was followed by a knockout win over Ryan Couture and then a unanimous decision win over Edimilson Souza.
Every time I started hurting him I got kicked in the nuts again.
– Patricky Freire
Bellator mirrored Freire’s struggles, suffering the loss of a high profile bout due to injury. Veteran MMA fighter and Bellator newbie Josh Thomson, who was scheduled to face Michael Chandler in a non-title fight, was out with an undisclosed injury. Another Bellator vs. Fighter public dispute was resolved when the promotion decided to cut Will Brooks, the most recent Bellator lightweight champion, from its roster.
Continued in Part II: The road to the title has finally come to an end for Patricky Freire, with an unexpected rematch with Michael Chandler for the vacant Bellator Lightweight Championship.
• Michael Chandler vs. Patricky Freire
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