Should Patricio Freire be A.J. McKee’s first Bellator title defense?

    This year could be the most important one of the Hall of Fame-worthy career of Patricio Freire.

    For a good share of the past more than seven years, “Pitbull” Freire has had a Bellator title around his waist. And for part of that time, he had two. But these days, the former featherweight and lightweight champion is without any belts and waiting for his first assignment on the path forward.

    Freire lost his featherweight title to A.J. McKee in July 2021 with a first-round submission. It was the first time in 37 fights that he had been stopped outside an injury TKO loss in 2016. And though he still held the lightweight title after that, he elected to vacate the belt so his brother, Patricky, could make a run at it – a run he was successful with.

    Freire said he was willing to give up the 155-pound title so he could put all his effort into going back after the 145-pound strap he lost to the unbeaten McKee. So for now, we know Freire’s immediate future is at featherweight.

    What we don’t know, though, is just what that path will look like. Will he get a shot at redemption against McKee straight away, or will he have to go through another featherweight or two to get back to a title shot?

    Bellator hasn’t announced a first title defense yet for McKee, so it appears anything is possible for each of them. Should Freire get a rematch against McKee, or should he have to fight someone else first? Weigh in on the options in our poll below.

    And above, check out Freire’s most recent win, which came with a first-round submission of Emmanuel Sanchez in the Bellator featherweight grand prix semifinals on his way to the final matchup with McKee.

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