A member of the Bellator MMA roster for just over four years now, Emmanuel “El Matador” Sanchez has went through the gauntlet of one the promotions deepest divisions, defeating three straight former world champions and a UFC vet, to earn his shot a challenging Patricio “Pitbull” Freire for the Bellator featherweight title in the main event of Bellator 209.
MF: What was your reaction to finding out you were getting the title fight?
ES: Excuse my language but, I’m not surprised motherf**ker. I’m just excited man. I been waiting for this opportunity. I knew it had to be me. Would I have been upset if it wasn’t? Yeah. But I would have been motivated and animated to fight ten more fights, if I needed to, to do it, but I thank god and everyone in the division knows that there is no other contender right now who has done what I’ve done, who’s faced who I’ve faced, beat who I’ve beat. And this is the fight the fans want to see. An exciting fight between me and Patricio Pitbull. Belt or no belt on the line I think people have wanted to see this. You know we didn’t trash talk each other, we didn’t call each other out. You know just two men, respectful, ready to leave it all on the line.
MF: You’ve fought all the top guys since being in Bellator. Have you eyeing a fight with Pitbull?
ES: I believe it been inevitable, you know, yeah. Since my third fight in Bellator, I fought Pat Curran on short notice. Once they gave me that fight, I was like alright I’m going to be fighting other former champions soon or the current champ soon. And look it’s been nothing but that. I’ve fought nothing but the best guys and this is the only guy. You know, Straus, Curran, Pitbull from the last couple years as title holders and I’m excited. Now I get this guy, who happens to be the champion right now. This guy Patricio Pitbull and it’s been a long time coming. I’m excited, he’s excited, the fans are excited. It’s gonna be a hell of a fight, fight of the year.
MF: Could you talk a little bit about what you’ve learned from having those high level fights?
ES: Yeah, like I said Pat Curran on two weeks notice. I was just getting done eating ice cream. I’ll be real, I’ll be a man, I’ll be honest. I was just done training. You know man, I had just enjoyed some ice cream after training. I had trained hard. And sure as hell the next morning I get a call. Manny you want to fight Pat Curran? What the hell dude. Also at the time I was training with him. He was making trips to come up and train at Roufusport to get other training in and I’m like damn man how crazy is that. Alright here we go. I took the opportunity. It didn’t go why way, but hey man that’s what got my foot in the door. That’s why I’m at where I’m at today. You know what I mean, cause I have the balls to go there and say yeah I’ll fight him, on two weeks notice, after having just trained with him, after just having some ice cream. Lets do it. I’m a fighter. Lets make It happen. Yeah it’s been along time coming and I’m excited. I’ve fought nothing but the best guys theses past few years, nothing but former champs, and top level guys. Guys with more professional fights than me, more professional finishes than I got wins. And it’s the same old story with Pitbull, he has more finishes than fights I have in Bellator. For me it means nothing. He’s just another man another human being I have to go out there and take out.
MF: You’ve went through a stretch of five close decisions, what did that do for you?
ES: Yeah it was pretty crazy, but thankfully I’m blessed. I take everything as a blessing. You know obviously I wanted to knock ’em out, want to submit everybody. You’ve seen my style, that’s all I go for. You see me hunting everyone’s back and their neck and their arm or their legs. So, yeah I’m sure people say, o yeah won a decision, but was it a boring fight. Were you not excited? Were you not entertained? Was I not leaving it all on the line? Was I not going for the finish. I’m not laying on top of guys. I’m not, not punching guys in the face. I’m making guys wilt and wither away. I leave it all on the line. Decision or not I’m making exciting fights that fans want to see. So, yeah I’m glad, you know, a lot of tough fights. They didn’t take a toll on my body. I’m still healthy. I’m still injury free, loving life. I was still in the gym the next Monday after all those fights. That just goes to show you how strong I am. You know not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, spiritually. And my fight IQ. It looks like I’m taking an ass whooping or maybe I’m suffering or I’m beat up an sore, but I wasn’t. I could have kept going. Now I’m just excited to go out and showcase my skills. I fight smarter not harder. That’s the thing where I think you’ve seen this change over these last couple fights that I don’t make the fight harder than it is. A fight is already hard. Guys are already as though as they are. Just got to go out there be smart and have fun. That’s it. You can’t forget to have fun. You got to have fun in there. I don’t think about wining of losing, just having fun in there.
MF: How do you go in there and walk out the Bellator champion?
ES: Go out there an dance under the lights, Muhammed Ali said it best the fight is won long before we do this, out there on road, in the gym, long before I dance under the lights. So it’s just other dance, I got a new dance partner, and so dose he. It’s gonna be such an exciting fight, fight of the year potentially. So though, so durable, such a strong guy. Such a great guy with a lot of experience. I’m just telling you what everyone already knows. It is what it is, I’m just excited. I’m so animated. I’m fighting the best fighter in the world, the current champ, and I’m going to leave and new Bellator featherweight world champion.
DAZN/Paramount Main Card
Featherweight Title: champ Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (27-4) vs. Emmanuel “El Matador” Sanchez (17-3)
Welterweight: Ryan Couture (11-6) vs. Haim Gozali (8-5)
Light Heavyweight: Phil Davis (19-4) vs. Vadim Nemkov (9-2)
Featherweight: Cindy Dandois (12-3) vs. Ola Rubin (4-0)
Heavyweight: Kirill Sidelnikov (11-5) vs. Adam Keresh (2-0)
Bellator App Prelims
Lightweight: Ido Halfon (0-0) vs. Itay Tratner (1-0)
Light Heavyweight: Nisim Rozales (0-0) vs. Nika Ben Tuashy (0-0)
Featherweight: Roy Peretz (4-2) vs. Itzik Rubinov (0-0)
Welterweight: Simon Smotritsky (4-0) vs. Matan Levi (3-1)
Welterweight: Fadi Haiyadre (0-0) vs. Christos Nicolaou (1-1)
Light Heavyweight: Ram Banano (0-1) vs. Natan Borovytskyi (0-0)
Featherweight: Honor Kelesh (3-0) vs. Andrey Barberoshe (5-6)
Strawweight: Yulia Sachkov (0-1) vs. Viktoria Makarova (0-0)
Featherweight: Kirill Medvedovski (11-6) vs. Denis Plancia (6-0)
Bantamweight: Elazar Tariku (4-1) vs. Sidemar Honorio (12-6)
Welterweight: Jackie Gosh (7-1) vs, Jamil Ibragimov (1-0)
Welterweight: Khrony Gracie (0-1) vs. Avi Baron (0-1)
Lightweight: Aviv Gozali (0-0) vs. Anton Lazebnov (0-0)