Bellator champion Patricio Pitbull chasing ‘legendary fights’ after PFL acquisition
One of the most dominant champions in Bellator history will get another chance to test himself against fellow titleholders after the company was bought out by PFL.
As PFL looks to absorb many fighters to its roster while keeping Bellator running as an international series, featherweight great Patricio Pitbull eyes PFL’s “mega-event” planned for 2024, where champions from both organizations will collide in the cage.
Pitbull reacted to the news on MMA Fighting’s Trocação Franca podcast, celebrating the fact he will get to face another titleholder. Pitbull beat then-RIZIN featherweight champion Kleber Koike in Japan in 2022, and looks forward to competing against the winner of Friday’s Gabriel Braga vs. Jesus Pinedo bout, which decides 2023’s PFL featherweight champion.
“For me, it makes sense to do legendary fights, historic fights, like this one against the PFL champion, whoever that is,” Pitbull said. “Champion vs. champion. To me, it makes more sense to do fights of that magnitude [instead of entering the PFL season]. But when I’m in a GP, if I have the belt, I treat every fight as a title defense.”
Pitbull said he’s open to competing in the PFL season even though he prefers special one-offs, and admits he absolutely hates the PFL point system that qualifies athletes to the playoffs. Instead, he prefers traditional MMA tournaments like the ones done under the Bellator banner. Pitbull said that whether he’s in a tournament or not won’t “change a thing for me” financially, however, since “my purse will be the same.”
Pitbull said he hopes Braga wins Friday, setting up a clash between friends in 2024. Gabriel is the son of Diego Braga, an MMA fighter and coach who worked with Pitbull back when the Bellator star trained at Team Nogueira in Rio de Janeiro.
“I’ve known Gabriel since he was a kid, he’s the son of a great friend of mine, but we’re professionals,” Pitbull said. “If I have to fight a Brazilian, we’ll put on a fight that will go down in history. I think Diego told me once that [Gabriel] is my fan. I’ve seen him hitting pads as a kid in the gym and he was tough already, so I’m sure it would be a great battle. I welcome the opportunity and hope he wins and becomes PFL champion.”
When Bellator put Pitbull’s talents to use against RIZIN athletes in Japan in 2022, the night Pitbull beat Koike, it was a clean 5-0 sweep for the American promotion. Pitbull foresees another dominant score when Bellator titleholders eventually meet PFL champions.
“I don’t see Bellator fighters being inferior to PFL athletes,” Pitbull said. “With all due respect to PFL guys, they’re super tough fighters. That’s all in theory, we have to fight to see who’s who, but in my vision, in theory, most Bellator fighters are better than PFL fighters. But we’re here to fight, brother.”
As for the whole landscape of the sport, Pitbull laments that having PFL and Bellator merge means one less option in the market for fighters seeking major MMA deals, but celebrates that they’re one step closer to the UFC in terms of top-ranked talent on the same roster.
“They have everything in their hands to make it grow more and more,” Pitbull said. “On the media side we have YouTubers Jake Paul and Logan Paul, who are very important, and we have [Francis] Ngannou scoring one for us fighters and MMA fans against the best boxer in the world today. We have everything to go head-to-head with the UFC. The first step was taken with the acquisition, and now we wait.”
“Having said all that, it won’t be easy,” he added. “The UFC is very traditional, an older organization that has taken the right steps at the right time. Let’s see what happens. I’m curious.”