The Bellator featherweight title picture has become a little clearer. According to promotion officials, season-four tournament winner Patricio "Pitbull" Freire (17-1) -- the presumed next-in-line for a title shot -- has been shelved after undergoing a second surgery for a broken hand suffered in training. As such, surprise 2011 Summer Series tournament winner Pat Curran (16-4) has now been targeted as the next challenger to Joe Warren's (7-2) featherweight belt, tentatively scheduled for February. Promotion officials announced the news late Monday afternoon on Twitter.
Freire and Warren were originally scheduled to rematch at Bellator 47 until the Brazilian's hand injury postponed the contest. Two surgeries and several complications later, "Pitbull" is back on the recovery track but will be unable to return to action for the remainder of the year. According to officials, Freire will fight the winner of Curran vs. Warren during Bellator's sixth season, anticipated for the first half of 2012.
Warren heads into the February bout immediately after suffering a brutal 64-second knockout loss to Alexis Vila at the season-five bantamweight tournament quarterfinals. Contrastingly, Curran storms into the title fight in the midst of a three-fight win streak, including a highlight-reel head kick knockout of former Sengoku Featherweight Champion Marlon Sandro at Bellator 48.
No exact date or venue has been confirmed for the rumored February card. The event is expected to be headlined by a highly-anticipated lightweight rematch between Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez and DREAM champion Shinya Aoki.