INGLEWOOD — A.J. McKee’s call-out finally came home.
The undefeated Long Beach star’s crusade, which started with his professional MMA and Bellator debut in 2016
when he dared to invoke the name of featherweight champion Patricio Pitbull, has been more than six years in the making.
On Saturday night at The Forum, McKee won the $1 million Bellator World Featherweight Grand Prix with a
technical submission via standing guillotine choke of Pitbull in the first round to claim the belt and establish his
elite status in the sport.
“Been 22 years in the making,” said the 26-year-old Long Beach Poly grad at the postfight press conference as his
father and coach, Antonio, quietly watched from the side.
“I said was gonna do it in stylish fashion. Done and one. Head kick, Uppercut. I saw him quit.”
McKee took the center of the cage from the get-go, but the pair squared off with little action other than a few McKee kicks to Pitbull’s legs.
The southpaw had Pitbull backed toward the fence when he feigned a left jab. Pitbull put his right hand out and
McKee connected with perfectly timed left head kick, his shin blasting the side of Pitbull’s jaw. McKee tapped a
staggered Pitbull with a couple punches before a left uppercut dropped the Brazilian.
The 26-year-old phenom began to prematurely celebrate before referee Mike Beltran told him to continue
fighting and Pitbull began to rise. McKee pounced and locked in a standing guillotine choke, torqueing with all
his might for several seconds before McKee felt Pitbull began to fade. As Pitbull’s arms began to go limp, Beltran
jumped in at 1:57 to kick off a wild celebration from the partisan crowd.
What’s more, in 36 professional fights spanning 17 years, Pitbull had never been knocked out or submitted – and
McKee might have done both in less than two minutes.
Pitbull appeared to protest Beltran’s stoppage. McKee said Pitbull told him after the fight he didn’t lose
McKee joked at the postfight press conference: “Maybe he wasn’t satisfied. I can put him out again.”
Pitbull later said he watched the finish and didn’t disagree with it.
“On this night, he was great. He kicked my head, he almost knocked me out and almost finished me on the same
night,” the former champ said. “He was good. Congratulations. Now he is the champ.”
McKee (18-0) kicked off his professional MMA career more than six years ago, having just turned 20 and
collecting a victory via submission at Bren Events Center in Irvine and calling out Pitbull, who was seven months
into his first featherweight title reign.
Pitbull and McKee both started their journeys in the grand prix at Bellator 228 in September 2019 at The Forum –
Pitbull dominating top contender Juan Archuleta in a unanimous decision after McKee recorded a highlight-ree_ 8-second knockout of Georgi Karakhanyan
Three months later against Derek Campos, McKee grinded out a third-round submission win despite tearing his
lateral collateral ligament in his left knee at Bellator 236 in December 2019. And in November, he advanced to
the final by forcing a tapout via a neck crank/guillotine choke of former Bellator bantamweight champion and NCAA wrestling champion Darrion Caldwell at Bellator 253 in November.
Pitbull, 34, had been regarded by some as the top 145-pounder in the world. He is still the organization’s
lightweight champion – one of only three double champions in Bellator history, though now there are none.
Bellator CEO Scott Coker revealed after the fight that McKee’s team had mentioned that their fighter might not
be long for the featherweight division because the 145-pound limit has become increasingly more challenging
for him to make.
McKee confirmed it and suggested possibly taking on Pitbull again, this time for his lightweight title.
Pitbull’s team welcomed the challenge but offered a role reversal by welcoming McKee to Brazil for the rematch.
“We traveled 36 hours to get here. Let’s switch it up one time,” said Eric Albarracin, Pitbull’s coach.
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© 2018 new 24 hour
© 2018 new 24 hour