Patricio Freire, Aaron Pico get new opponents


Five days out from PFL vs. Bellator: Champions, the card has been slightly edited.

Bellator stars Patricio Freire and Aaron Pico are looking at new matchups – a domino effect that stemmed from the withdrawal of Jesus Pinedo.

Pinedo was initially scheduled to face Freire (35-7) in a champion vs. champion matchup. Filling that void will now be Gabriel Braga (12-1), who was initially scheduled vs. Pico (12-4).

The promotion now targets Pico for a rematch against 2019 foe Henry Corrales, a seasoned, gritty veteran, who is one of the longest-tenured fighters under the Bellator banner. Corrales (21-7) won their first meeting with an onslaught-halting knockout punch.

Four people with knowledge of the changes recently informed MMA Junkie of the promotion’s plans. It’s unclear at this time if bout agreements have been signed by all parties, as some fighters are still in transit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the site of Saturday’s event. Ag. Fight first reported Freire vs. Braga.

“Pitbull” Freire looks to bounce back from the first two-fight losing skid of his career. In June, he attempted to win Bellator gold in a third weight class but was unsuccessful at bantamweight against Sergio Pettis. In an impromptu move, Freire took on days notice a fight under the RIZIN banner in July. He was upset by Chihiro Suzuki in Round 1.

Braga, who knows Freire well, competes just weeks after the death of his father, who served as his MMA mentor. Braga was the runner-up in the 2023 PFL featherweight post-season. His loss to Jesus Pinedo in the divisional championship was the first of his career.

Pico has long-served as one of the faces of Bellator, particularly as an example of the promotion’s homegrown-talent-building. Under the spotlight since before his professional debut, Pico has encountered ups and downs inside the Bellator cage. However, he appears to have hit his stride in recent fights, with wins over James Gonzalez and Pedro Carvalho.

Corrales looks to bounce back from an October unanimous decision loss to Kai Kamaka III. The defeat snapped a three-fight winning streak. Corrales has been with Bellator since 2015 and has a 9-7 promotional record.

With the changes, the projected PFL vs. Bellator: Champions lineup includes:

  • Renan Ferreira vs. Ryan Bader
  • Impa Kasanganay vs. Johnny Eblen
  • Ray Cooper III vs. Jason Jackson
  • Gabriel Braga vs. Patricio Freire
  • Bruno Cappelozza vs. Vadim Nemkov
  • Thiago Santos vs. Yoel Romero
  • Clay Collard vs. A.J. McKee
  • Henry Corrales vs. Aaron Pico
  • Biaggio Ali Walsh vs. Emmanuel Palacio
  • Claressa Shields vs. Kelsey De Santis
  • Abdullah Al-Qahtani vs. Edukondala Rao

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for PFL vs. Bellator: Champions.

Be sure to visit the MMA Junkie Instagram page and YouTube channel to discuss this and more content with fans of mixed martial arts.

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