Pat Curran (above) will get a title shot against Joe Warren in February. | Photo: Dave Mandel


An injury to Bellator Fighting Championships’ top featherweight contender has moved Pat Curran up in line for a sooner-than-expected title shot.

The winner of Bellator’s recent Summer Series tournament, Curran will leapfrog sidelined Season 4 tourney winner Patricio “Pitbull” Freire to face reigning champion Joe Warren at an as-yet-unannounced February event. Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney on Monday confirmed the switch to MMAJunkie.com, adding that the title bout could land on the same “off-season” card as a lightweight super-fight between Bellator champ Eddie Alvarez and Dream ace Shinya Aoki.

Freire, who lost a controversial split decision to Warren in June 2010, was originally slated to fight for the title in July before a broken left hand put him on the shelf. After physical therapy failed to solve the problem, the 24-year-old Brazilian underwent surgery on Nov. 4 and afterward stated that he expects to return to action in the first half of 2012.

“Unfortunately, my injury wasn’t healed with physical therapy. The damaged bones are healed, but the ligament is torn,” Freire wrote on Twitter. “I will be going through with surgery... with the same doctor that did [UFC bantamweight champion] Dominick Cruz’s one. But in four months, I will be back in the Bellator cage and will bring the title to Brazil.”

Curran, 24, has tasted defeat only once in seven Bellator appearances, winning tournaments at both 145 and 155 pounds. His lone defeat came in a five-round April loss to Alvarez, after which Curran moved down the scale.

A decorated Greco-Roman wrestler, Warren was handed the first knockout loss of his young MMA career in September when he was punched out of Bellator’s fifth-season bantamweight tournament by Alexis Vila. The 35-year-old Team Quest fighter had previously won five in a row, including razor-thin decisions over Freire and Marcos Galvao, and a stunning KO of inaugural champ Joe Soto.

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