Sports fans can always tell when a good competitive matchup between two opposing parties holds potential to evolve into a tremendous rivalry. They recognize the fire that burns in both sides, and often, that fire creates an intensity that drives both sides to compete so fiercely that the audience in attendance—as well as the millions watching around the world—can see that these events must happen again, because it emphatically defines the sport they love.

On Jan. 17 of last year, fans experienced such an event in Bellator MMA, as Bellator featherweight champion Pat Curran made the first defense of his belt against Patricio “Pitbull” Freire. Curran defeated Joe Warren at Bellator 60 to win the title, while Freire came off of a three-fight winning streak and a layoff of a little over a year all on the heels of his first pro loss, which also came against Warren.

Fans knew Curran brought an unorthodox offense to the table, while Freire brought a type of power that few can replicate at 145 pounds, so they knew to expect a fun battle. They did not know, however, that the battle would play out with the ferocity that it did.

“Patricio, he’s a power puncher, he throws with heavy hands and heavy kicks,” Curran told The MMA Corner. “and he’s a great overall fighter, a great striker, but looking back on that fight, it was a very close fight. “

All five rounds of action stayed predominantly on the feet, with both men taking as much as they could give. Freire brought the fight to the champion, but Curran kept up his own striking, and although it did not lead to a finish, it did lead Curran to a split-decision win, thus causing him to retain the belt.

Fast forward a little over one year since that first fight, and much has changed. Bellator MMA has undergone changes in its structure, with the company moving away from the tournament format, and Curran comes off of an intense five-rounder against Daniel Straus. Straus dethroned Curran in November and made his first defense in an immediate rematch, which saw Curran regain the title with 14 seconds left on the clock. Had the finish not come when it did, that heated battle could’ve resulted in another potentially close judges’ call, but Curran never let that thought cross his mind.

“I just knew in the fifth round, this is the last round and I’m not going to go another round like this; I have to do everything I can to dominate this round, and I took him down, he gave up his back, and I took advantage of it. I was able to get my hooks in, get that rear naked choke, and I put everything I had into that choke, and I was able to finish it with about 14 seconds left.”

That hard-fought performance leads us into this Friday night’s Bellator 123 card, headlined by Curran’s rematch of his 2013 thriller with Freire. With Curran recently regaining the title from Straus and Freire coming off of a four-fight winning streak, it seems natural to expect that perhaps a different Freire will come into the Bellator cage to fight Curran. Still, as the featherweight champion, Curran knows that anything can happen in the heat of any fight, and Curran plans on taking whatever Freire takes as it  may come this Friday night, because when the smoke clears, Curran will look to ensure that it ends with him defeating Freire definitively and retaining his belt.

“As a fighter, I kind of react on the moment. You can’t over-think what’s going to happen and put scenarios in your head because it’s a fight, anything can happen. Like we said, just react on the moment, and you just have to trust yourself, but I would say I can see him having the same mentality same fight as the first one, and just going in there and trying to knock me out. I know he really wants to, so I could see it going that direction, but who knows? He might shoot in and try to take me down and submit me

“I have to expect everything. He can bring out all the tools to this fight and really try to change it up. That’s just one of those things that you can sit back and think about it too much or go with the flow, react to the moment and know you did everything possible to get ready for this fight, and that’s where I’m at right now. I don’t like to over-think the fight, and I know anything can happen.”

“I was given the split-decision by the judges, but my thought on [the first fight] was that it was too close. You never want to leave a fight in the judges’ hands, and this time around, I’m definitely looking to not do that. I want to go out there and finish him this time.”

“If you haven’t seen the first fight, make sure you tune into the second fight, because it was five rounds of back-and-forth [action], you know; it was a war. This second fight, there’s a lot more going into it, we’re both looking to finish each other, and we don’t want to leave it in a judges’ decision, so we’re definitely going out there to look for the kill and  you don’t want to miss it.”

Pat would like to thank Team Takedown for a great training camp, Team Curran for never letting him forget where he came from, his family, his friends, his supporters, Sucker Punch Entertainement, and his sponsors. Follow Pat on Twitter: @PatCurranMMA 


About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.