Bellator 183: “Henderson vs. Pitbull” heads to SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., this Saturday night (Sept. 23, 2017), featuring a Spike TV-televised main event between “Smooth” Benson Henderson (24-7) against Lightweight knockout specialist Patricky “Pitbull” Freire (17-8).

The last time Freire came to SAP Center he was originally scheduled for a fight second from the top against Josh “The Punk” Thomson. When Matt Mitrione developed kidney stones and was unable to fight that night, the “Thomson vs. Pitbull” fight was promoted to the main event spotlight.

What was Freire’s response to the late notice change? Go out there and start throwing bombs. And 40 seconds into the second round, Thomson was looking up at the referee and Freire was celebrating his third win in his last four fights. By knocking off a man widely expected to challenge for the 155-pound title, he immediately put his name back on top of the contenders list.

MMAmania.com recently spoke with “Pitbull” about a huge opportunity to ascend even further up the ladder by facing (and potentially beating) a high-profile, decorated mixed martial arts (MMA) standout.

“It’s a great pleasure to me to be fighting Ben Henderson at this event and (it) being the main event of the night. I’m very anxious for the fight to happen.”

Having a shared opponent in Thomson serves as a comparison point for fight fans, but Freire doesn’t think his finish of “The Punk” is necessarily an indicator for Saturday’s bout.

“Every fighter’s response (is) different for a different match up. I am a guy that is orthodox, and Ben Henderson is a guy that is southpaw, so I do not evaluate our fight by the way he fought the guy I fought as well. I do not compare the way our results went. I evaluate our fight by the way that my skills match up with his and how successful I can be against him.”

The telling part of that response was the emphasis on “southpaw,” so I queried Freire as to whether or not that was something they accounted for while training for Henderson.

“Yeah, I had to bring in southpaws or ask guys to fight southpaw in the gym to adapt to everything. It’s much different than fighting an orthodox fighter. I don’t know if I ever faced a southpaw in my career before. If I did it it must (have) ended fast because I don’t remember. That was the hardest thing to do, to adapt to a guy fighting completely different than what I’ve been seeing my entire career.”

Freire has no choice but to adapt, because a victory gives him four wins in his last five, but a loss would be the second of his last three. Losing to Henderson could dash his title aspirations.

“I think that as Ben Henderson just fought for the belt, it’s more about me beating him and getting to the title, than him beating me and getting to the title. Winning this fight I would have two wins in a row against some great names in the weight class. It would certainly put me up there (in contention) and create an interesting history with the current champ.”

That brings us straight to recently-crowned champion Brent Primus, who “Pitbull” says in no uncertain terms was ducking him even before his huge upset win over Michael Chandler.

“Brent Primus — everyone knows he accepted to fight me two times and pulled out (of) those fights. Every other time that Bellator tried to match us up, he run away. He was scared to fight me, he didn’t want to accept a fight against me, so that’s exactly a fight that I’m looking forward to have right after I beat Henderson. I want to fight the champion.”

It sounds like there’s bad blood brewing with Primus, but there’s none between Freire and Henderson on Saturday … even though Henderson beat his brother in a previous fight.

“Of course if I win it will have a special place (in my heart) because there is some unfinished business between him and my brother. My brother was beating him easily and got injured, but I don’t have anything personal in it. I don’t take anything extra with me, no extra baggage for this fight. I have a lot of respect for Ben Henderson, he is one of the greatest in this sport, and what matters for me is to get this win over him with no external factors being considered.”

Since “baggage” came up I wondered if Freire was carrying any for Chandler given they’ve already fought twice and his second loss to Chandler was for the then-vacant title.

“I really want to put my hands on (Primus), I think that’s the only way he wouldn’t run from me any more, and then I would be the champion and fight Chandler defending my belt. I think that would be the best scenario to fight Chandler again, and have that rematch with him being the challenger, and me knocking him out this time.”

“Pitbull” clearly has a gameplan mapped out in his head going forward, but the only way to get where he’s going is through Henderson. And his confidence is high in besting that challenge.

“I think that every time that I’ve won by knockout or had an excellent performance were times that I performed really well in practice and everything that I was doing (in practice) was happening the way it happened in the fight. The fights are a reflection of my training camps, and the training camp for this fight has been pretty good. I’ve been able to match up with my sparring partners’ timing, I’ve been able to defend all their takedown attempts, so everything is aligning itself as a future KO victory for me.”

As a rule, though, that’s just how Freire sees every fight no matter what opponent he meets.

“That’s all that I imagine every time I’m going to fight someone. All that I see is me knocking them out. I don’t imagine a decision, I don’t imagine a submission, all that I think of is me knocking them out.”

That’s why Freire will end this with what may seem like a bold prediction to some, but one that comes from his natural confidence in his ability and his already established knockout power.

“My prediction is that even if it’s in the last second of the third round, (it will be) me having the win by knockout.”

Tune into Spike TV this weekend to see if “Pitbull” Freire can make good on his bold prediction.

Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Henderson vs. Pitbull” resides here at MMAmania.com all week long.

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