New Blood

KYLE PIMENTEL

RECORD: 7–0

KEY VICTORIES: Olaf Alfonso, Jason Von Flue

Kyle Pimentel is another fighter that was on the radar for Bellator Fighting Championships as the promotion loads up for its second season, which will air on a trifecta of television networks in the United States, including NBC, Fox Sports, and Telemundo.

On the cusp of signing to fight in the Bellator welterweight tournament, Pimentel tore his rotator cuff and will be sidelined too long for him to be ready when season two kicks off. He may be out of the tournament, but he shouldn’t be off your watch list.

Pimentel, at just 25 years old, has already amassed an undefeated record of 7–0. He got his pro start in the venerable Gladiator Challenge and worked his way through Cage Combat Fighting Championships in California before stepping in to take the Palace Fighting Championships welterweight crown.

Born and raised in Northern California, like many other fighters, Pimentel springboarded into fighting via Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He has competed and won several grappling competitions, but after deciding to try mixed martial arts in a small amateur event in Oregon, he was hooked … and he hasn’t looked back.

Pimentel trains with UFC veteran David Terrell at the NorCal Fighting Alliance alongside Bellator Featherweight Champion Joe Soto and rising talents David Mitchell and Emily Thompson. None of Pimentel’s seven fights have gone the distance. He submitted four of his first five opponents, but has TKO’d the last two, including The Ultimate Fighter alumnus Jason Von Flue.

Whether he eventually ends up in Bellator or not, expect to see Pimentel rising through the ranks of a very stacked welterweight division in the coming months.

PATRICIO FREIRE

RECORD: 12–0

KEY VICTORIES: Fernando Vieira, Jadson Costa

With a professional record of 12–0, Patricio “Pitbull” Freire should be more well-known to fight fans. But like so many Brazilians, he’s had to fight his way up in regional shows in his home country before getting a shot to show the world his skills.

Pitbull has run rough shod through nearly all of his opposition, finishing 10 of his 12 opponents. It’s that ferocity that has earned him a shot in the second season of Bellator Fighting Championships. He’ll be competing in the promotion’s featherweight tournament; the winner will be dubbed the number one contender to current champion Joe Soto.

“I have been waiting for the opportunity to make my international debut for a long time,” says Freire. “I am excited to have my chance to show America and the world what I can do in the cage.”

Emerging from a poor city in the northern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Norte, the 23-year-old actually has a wealth of experience to draw upon. Always one of the shortest kids in his neighborhood, he began training jiu-jitsu at just 10 years of age to help him shrug off the stigma of his size.

Pitbull trained for a time at the famed Chute Boxe, during the gym’s golden era, alongside Wanderlei Silva, Mauricio and Murilo Rua, and Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos. Freire is now a part of the Minotauro Fight Team run by former PRIDE and UFC Heavyweight Champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. He is relocating to the camp’s Rio de Janeiro home base to train fulltime at Nogueira’s training center, which can only further help to shape the already well-rounded style that he has used to both submit and knock out opponents. Like the breed of dog he took his nickname from, Pitbull’s tenacious style allows him to go wherever the fight goes, with equal aggression.

“My main goal is to become one of the best 145-pound fighters in the world,” says Freire. “I want to face the best fighters in the world, and one day, with God’s blessing, be the best fighter at my weight class.”

GUNNAR NELSON

RECORD: 5–0–1

KEY BOUT: John Olesen

Gunnar Nelson grew up in Iceland playing soccer and ice hockey, but martial arts is where he has always excelled. He dominated the Icelandic karate scene, winning many championships in his youth. Then, at the ripe old age of 16, he made the move to begin a career in mixed martial arts and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Training most of his career at SBG International in Iceland, Ireland, and England, Nelson now trains primarily under Renzo Gracie in New York. In fact, he was awarded his BJJ black belt last September from Renzo.

Many of his accolades have come from the world of grappling. He won a gold medal in his recent competitive debut as a black belt, but maybe most impressive was a grappling victory as a brown belt at ADCC last year. Competing in the Absolute Class (no weight limits), he defeated veteran UFC and PRIDE heavyweight Jeff Monson by points in double overtime. Monson was fresh off a third place finish in the over- 218 pounds category. Nelson weighed just 183 pounds.

But where he’s really looking to make his mark now is in MMA. He made his professional debut in May 2007, fighting to a draw on John Olesen’s home turf in Denmark. He learned his lesson. Nelson hasn’t allowed a fight to go the distance since, racking up five straight victories.

Nelson set his MMA career aside in 2009 to round out his submission game, competing in several grappling competitions over the year, but is scheduled to return to the cage in early 2010.

Now under the guidance of Renzo Gracie, who is making his own return to active competition in the UFC, Nelson is sure to rise through the ranks fast. He’s already competed in Ireland, England, and Denmark, but has yet to emerge on the world stage. Don’t be surprised if you see him there by the end of 2010.

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