The Bellator MMA Featherweight Title: A Visual History

By: Ben Duffy
Nov 17, 2020
Patricio Freire is making a strong case for himself as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world, but his historical dominance in the Bellator MMA featherweight division is already beyond debate.

At Bellator 252 last Thursday, “Pitbull” thrashed Pedro Carvalho to advance to the semifinals of the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix. As Freire’s belt is on the line in each round of the tournament, the first-round knockout also constituted his sixth title defense.

It would be difficult to overstate the extent to which the burly Brazilian is synonymous with the featherweight belt. There is a certain amount of round-robin parity; along with Freire, Pat Curran and Daniel Straus are both two-time champs, as they have snatched the belt from one another over and over again. However, “Pitbull” is the clear alpha dog here. In the entire history of the division, there have been 16 title fights, and Freire has been in 10 of them, going 8-2.

Before any of those gentlemen, however, there was Joe Soto, Bellator’s first featherweight champion. Soto was in fact the promotion’s first champ, period, preceding Hector Lombard and Lyman Good by a week. He and Joe Warren—who was a late starter in MMA and physically better suited to bantamweight—held down the fort until the triumvirate of Freire, Curran and Straus arrived. Now Freire sits atop the mountain, with worthy challengers such as previous challenger Emmanuel Sanchez, former bantamweight champ Darrion Caldwell and undefeated phenom A.J. McKee standing between him and the grand prix final.

Ben Duffy/ illustration

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