Bellator featherweight champion Daniel Straus will defend his title for the first time in the main event at Bellator 177 next Friday (April 21), following an extended layoff due to a hand injury. The 32-year-old from Cincinnati, Ohio will battle bitter rival Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire for an unheard of fourth time and knows victory is required to even the score.

Tony Reid caught up with Straus ahead of the fight and found a man pulling no punches.

Tony Reid: This will be the fourth time you have faced Patricio and each time the stakes have been high. What are your thoughts when you stop and think about all the times you have scrapped with him?

Daniel Straus: I have been asked that question so many times but my answer changes each time I answer it. It is what it is. He is just another fighter I have to fight. I am honored to be a guy that makes some kind of history in Bellator. A job has to be done and I am going to do it. I am a fighter who puts on good fights and he is a fighter who puts on good fights and we just happen to keep meeting. You can’t ignore great fights.

TR: After losing to him twice earlier in your career you got the win and secured the title the last time you fought. How do you see this fourth fight playing out?

DS: The same way I always see them playing out: with me winning. From the first time I fought him I always thought I was better. I always thought I could beat him. Even our second go-round you saw a very different fighter. I had his number then. I made a mental lapse and lost that fight. I bounced back in the third fight and did what I said I was going to do in the first to fights. I beat his ass. I am going to keep bringing that to the fucking table. I don’t see anything different now.

TR: You had a number of surgeries on your injured hand that led to the long layoff. You said that you almost felt uncomfortable being the champion and being on the sidelines for so long. Looking back at the time off, what were the challenges you faced in the fight game and away from it?

DS: It has its ups and downs and its pros and cons. I got to heal up a lot. Being away from the game and watching everything that is going on brings a dark cloud, knowing you can’t do anything. I had the first surgery thinking I’m good, then I wasn’t good. Then I had the second surgery and I thought the same thing. Then I was thinking, ‘What the fuck?’ Going into the last surgery was one of those things where was I going to let it beat me or was I going to get over it. Everyone knows I am a mentally tough guy. I just did what I had to do. There were times when I was in the gym with a cast on, sparring with one hand. They asked me to leave the gym. I was not leaving the gym. I need to be busy doing something. There have been days where I have cried. There have been days where I was happy just knowing I would get back and hurt somebody. It has been extremely emotional for me. To be able to be at a place where I can say I am going to fight again, I am proud. I am happy. I’m just waiting to step my foot inside that cage.

TR: We see professional fighters under the bright lights, on camera, on television, but many times the toughest fights happen away from the cage. It sounds like that is the case with you…

DS: Yes, sir. It has been a rollercoaster for me. I have had personal issues. I have had family issues. I have had health issues. It has been a whirlwind of emotions. I have had the best people always backing me and keeping my head up and pushing me along. I don’t feel like sitting out this long has been a burden on me. It has let me mentally focus on the things I need to and walk away from some of the things I didn’t need.

TR: In a recent tweet you simply said you are going to put his ass to sleep. Is that how this fight is going down?

DS: That’s how I see all of them going down. I will put his ass to fucking sleep. He doesn’t want it. I guarantee you what he wants to do it sit me on my ass and try to keep this fight on the ground. He doesn’t want to stand in front of me. If he stands in front of me I will have another broken hand and he is going to be laying on the floor, again. I am that guy. That’s me. I am going to keep coming. I think that third fight just showed my mentality. It doesn’t matter what you say you are going to do to me. It doesn’t matter what you know about me. You have to get in there and stop me. At the end of the day you will have to see me and I am a fucking bad dream for anybody.