Whenever fans or the media talk about the top featherweight fighters on the planet, one of the names who is almost never brought up but who really should be is Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, who takes on UFC vet Diego Nunes in the main event of Friday night’s Bellator 99. This is despite the fact “Pitbull” came a scorecard away from defeating current Bellator featherweight champion Pat Curran earlier this year — actually, he was one round away from winning the belt — and Curran is a guy who is universally ranked in the top five of his weight. Why is this so? I’m honestly not sure, but if I had to guess, it’s been Bellator’s lack of promoting him even though he’s 6-2 in the promotion (both losses coming via close split decision) and 18-2 overall in mixed martial arts, 14 of those wins come via stoppage. After the Curran fight, Bellator had the opportunity to invoke their newly minted “rematch clause,” whereby they can re-do a title fight that was considered close or controversial if the fans want it and without said fighter having to win a second tournament in order to get a second crack at the belt. But despite Pitbull’s camp asking for it, and despite many fans wanting to see Curran vs. Pitbull II since their first fight at Bellator 85 was one of the best bouts of the year, Bellator instead chose to give Shahbulat Shamhalaev the next title shot instead. Curran then took on Shamhalaev at Bellator 95 and choked out the challenger in the first round. Pitbull, meanwhile, sat on the sidelines waiting from January to July with no fights whatsoever, despite the fact he wanted to keep active. Then, in late July, Bellator was kind enough to book him in a stay-busy fight and he promptly took 0ut Jared Downing with punches at Bellator 97 in one of the most one-sided beatdowns all year. And while that bout did open up the evening’s Spike TV televised main card, it only came after the fans begged Bellator to put him on TV, which makes me wonder if Bellator doesn’t realize this guy’s potential starpower. This weekend, Pitbull makes a quick turnaround when he takes on Nunes, who was ranked in the top 10 of the UFC featherweight division for a long time. If he can beat him, I think he should finally be given the credit he deserves as one of the best 145 pounders in the world, even though personally I feel like he has already proven as much. I’m glad that Bellator gave Pitbull this headlining fight against Nunes as it’s definitely an opportunity to showcase his skills in front of a large audience, but now it’s up to the Brazilian to prove his worth, and I think he will. When he does, I just hope he’s finally given the respect he’s earned by the fans and media alike instead of being an afterthought.