Michael Chandler and Patricio "Pitbull" Freire lack a certain level of enjoyment of each other's company. OK, based on their pre-fight comments in interviews and on social media, they straight-up can't stand one another.
Lucky for them, in their line of work they can settle their differences with fists, kicks and chokes, which each of them figure to do on Saturday at Bellator 221 in Rosemont, Illinois, just outside of Chicago..
It's not uncommon for two combatants to dislike one another and use that disdain as build-up to get more eyes on them, their fight and their promotion. And as the mixed martial arts landscape gets more crowded in both the linear TV and streaming spaces, some sound bites find their way to the front of the line faster than others.
A sampling from both Chandler and Freire on a recent Bellator 221 conference call:
"I talk to my god every day and he’s completely fine with me beating the hell out of people," Chandler said. "I do it in a dominant fashion, and I’m going to do it on May 11. I'm a nasty human being when I step into that cage, but before that I could care less. We’re not going to fight in the hotel room, we’re not going to fight in the press conferences. You can swear at me all you want, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to step inside the cage with the toughest dude that you’ve ever stepped in the cage with."
"At one time in my career," Freire said, "I did want a second belt, but this belt is going to signify me taking off my opponent's head and that's exactly what the belt is going to be ... Michael Chandler's head. That's what this belt means to me. It's not really about the belt, but for making Michael pay for everything he said."
Chandler vs. Freire headlines Bellator 221, which will stream on DAZN. A welterweight grand prix semifinal bout between Michael "Venom" Page and Douglas Lima will be the co-main event.
Chandler is the Bellator lightweight champion. Freire is the Bellator featherweight champion. Only Chandler's belt will be for the taking on Saturday as Freire moves up a weight class to challenge the man who knocked out his brother, Patricky, to win the vacant title in 2016. Chandler also beat Patricky in 2011 in the season 4 lightweight tournament final in order to get a title shot.
That would appear to be the basis for Freire's aggression. Their back-and-forth word sparring only has fueled the discourse.
"I will take you down Michael Chandler," Freire, 31, said. "Mark my words, you are going down. The revenge is more important that the title. I don't care about the belt, I want his head. He knows that."
Freire (28-4) has won three straight bouts, the most recent coming via unanimous decision against Emmanuel Sanchez last November. Chandler (19-4) also is on a three-fight win streak, most recently beating Brent Primus via unanimous decision to reclaim the lightweight title last December at Bellator 212.
Chandler, 33, said his sights are set a little farther down the road than just this fight and this opponent.
"I could care less about where the blood is, whether it’s bad blood, good blood, or in-between blood," Chandler said. "On May 11, I'm going to go out there and put on a dominant performance, just like I always do. I’m going to get my hand raised, I’m going to collect the check and kiss my wife and continue to move forward in this journey."
Bellator 221 main card, 9 p.m. Eastern on DAZN
Lightweight title fight: Champion Michael Chandler vs. Patricio Freire
Welterweight grand prix semifinal: Douglas Lima vs. Michael Page
Pat Curran vs. A.J. McKee
Jake Hager vs. T.J. Jones
James Bennett vs Tywan Claxton
Bellator 221 prelims, 7:30 p.m.
Adil Benjilany vs. Cris Lencioni
Josh Streacker vs. Scott Writz
Bryan Bautista vs. Rob Fenicle
Askar Askar vs. Taylor Moore
Romero Cotton vs. Matt Paul
Chris Gonzalez vs. Charlie Radtke
P.J. Cajigas vs. Craig Fruth
James Bochnovic vs. Robert Morrow