By all measures — appearances, victories, finishes, title reigns, and so forth. — the 31-year-old featherweight champion, who defends his title towards Emmanuel Sanchez on Thursday in Tel Aviv, Israel, is a first-ballot Corridor of Famer for the group; one of the vital constant and completed fighters to ever grace the Bellator MMA cage.
Since his debut towards Will Romero in April 2010, the gifted Brazilian has received two featherweight tournaments (Season Four and Season 9) whereas reaching the finals of one other, two championship victories, and three profitable title defenses. Total, the present featherweight titleholder boasts a 15-Four mark contained in the Bellator cage, with victories over former champions Daniel Straus and Pat Curran, perennial contenders Daniel Weichel and Henry Corrales, and revered veterans like Justin Wilcox, Diego Nunes, Wilson Reis and Georgi Karakhanyan.
Whereas some fighters find yourself being measured extra by their losses than their victories, Freire’s setbacks all got here towards high competitors and don’t forged any adverse mild on his illustrious profession.
Though he has misplaced to each Curran and Straus, the youthful half of the “Pitbull Brothers” avenged his loss to the previous and holds a 2-1 edge over the latter after three fights, whereas his most up-to-date setback towards Benson Henderson at Bellator 160 was a results of an damage in a struggle Freire was profitable on the time of the stoppage. The one loss on his resume that he has not avenged or that can’t be clarified in some vogue is his first profession defeat, which got here by cut up resolution towards Joe Warren within the Season 2 featherweight match finals.
Freire stands with fellow two-time champions Michael Chandler and Douglas Lima because the standard-bearers for Bellator MMA. Whereas extra recognizable and established names have been joined the promotion and garnered higher publicity lately, rivals like Freire have remained the extra dependable, reliable and energetic athletes on the roster, additional strengthening their affiliation with the group and including to their spectacular resumes alongside the way in which.
However as with most large skills who’ve handed by way of the Bellator cage at one level or one other, the query of the place Freire suits within the general featherweight panorama is troublesome to reply.
The shiny gold belt that he’ll carry into the cage towards Sanchez in Tel Aviv establishes him as the most effective fighter within the division below the Bellator MMA banner, however figuring out the place he suits when factoring within the wealth of expertise competing within the 145-pound weight class within the UFC and elsewhere is much more difficult.
To his credit score, Freire steered that Bellator CEO Scott Coker examine the potential of buying and selling for former UFC featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo within the wake of the Ben Askren-for-Demetrious Johnson swap, going as far as to supply up his brother Patricky in return. Despite the fact that Aldo not sits atop the division, a bout with the two-time champion and all-time nice is the kind of matchup that’s at present lacking from his resume and would give observers a higher understanding of the place he falls within the divisional hierarchy no matter organizational ties.
Featherweight is among the deepest divisions within the sport, with fighters like Lance Palmer, Andre Harrison and Steven Siler main the way in which within the Skilled Fighters League, and Kevin Belingon and Bibiano Fernandes atop the ranks in ONE Championship to go together with the huge crop of expertise who compete within the UFC Octagon every year.
Whereas there isn’t any technique to decide a definitive pecking order within the 145-pound division (or any weight class for that matter), except the appearance of trades lastly opens the door to a once-a-year, champions-versus-champions conflict to crown the most effective fighters on the planet, and speculating comes with the caveat that something may occur in a struggle to change the result of a few of these hypothetical conferences, it’s not unreasonable to view Freire as one of many Prime 15 featherweights on this planet proper now, with a spot within the Prime 10 not out of the query.
Although it might be troublesome to venture him beating impending UFC title combatants Max Holloway and Brian Ortega in the mean time, and he can be an underdog in pairings with the likes of Aldo, Frankie Edgar, Renato Moicano and Chad Mendes, is it actually that troublesome to see Freire rising victorious in a firefight with Jeremy Stephens?
Would you prefer Cub Swanson to beat him at this level of their respective careers? Josh Emmett? Ricardo Lamas? Darren Elkins?
Whereas a number of the members of the subsequent wave working their approach up the divisional rankings in the mean time like Mirsad Bektic, Alexander Volkanovski, Yair Rodriguez and Zabit Magomedsharipov characterize troublesome matchups — as do Palmer and Harrison — nobody would depend out Freire in any of these contests and victory over one or a number of of these names would definitely cement his standing as top-of-the-line featherweights on the planet given all that he’s already completed contained in the Bellator MMA cage.
However proper now, all we will do is speculate.
Despite the fact that it’s nice to see high quality expertise competing across the globe in numerous sturdy, steady, and rising organizations, the dispersion of expertise all through numerous promotions implies that there can be instances the place questions like this may by no means be answered and whereas most would rightfully counsel the UFC champion stands as the highest fighter in every weight class, Gegard Mousasi and Rory MacDonald wish to argue in any other case at middleweight and welterweight, respectively, and Demetrious Johnson wish to have a phrase relating to the flyweight division.
Coming to a consensus in discussions like that is by no means straightforward and a few individuals like to show them into semantic arguments about what the phrase “finest” actually means and what number of fighters are encompassed in that classification, however given the richness of his resume and the established expertise he brings to the cage, it feels protected to say that “Pitbull” is among the finest featherweights on the planet proper now.