AJ McKee will fight this weekend for the first time since losing the Featherweight at Bellator 277.
Former Bellator featherweight champion AJ McKee will make his return to the cage this Saturday at Bellator 286, as he takes on the rising Spike Carlyle. McKee, who has spent his career mostly dominating the Bellator featherweight division, will be moving up to the lightweight division for the upcoming clash.
McKee is coming off of back-to-back fights against current featherweight champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, in which McKee won the first matchup and lost the second. Fans may have noticed that the buildups to the McKee vs. Freire fights were quite intense compared to this week’s buildup. When asked if this fight week feels lighter than the previous two, McKee makes it clear that his rivalry with Freire makes for a much different fight-week experience compared to this week.
“I would say so, just because Patricio’s a little anal. He gets his little butthole puckered up and hurt,” said McKee told FanSided’s Amy Kaplan. “But with Spike, it’s just nothing but respect. We’re gonna go in there and put on a great show and give the fans what they want, and that’s a great fight. At the end of the day, we both know what we’re capable of and we’re just glad to go in there and do our job.”
While mutual respect between opponents may have been the key factor in this fight week feeling lighter for McKee, it’s best to not confuse McKee’s respect with timidity. Although both McKee and Carlyle wound up cracking smiles during their faceoff, neither fighter wanted to be the first to break the staredown, with McKee later elaborating on his goal during the faceoff.
“Break him. Break him, ya know? Can’t lose a stare down…I don’t like to break. I’m never gonna break. We can stare as long as you want because you’re gonna be in for it. That’s my way of letting you know,” he said.
McKee remains focused on his opponent for this week, although he was candid in sharing his feelings when asked about potentially fighting Freire for the third time.
AJ McKee eyeing a trilogy fight with Bellator featherweight champion Patricio Pitbull
“I think the trilogy is something that not only I want for my legacy, but if he calls himself a champ, it’s something he should want for his legacy. And it’s definitely something the fans want,” said McKee.
“I mean he was just over there talking his little…he said something. His f****g English sucks, so I can’t really understand him,” he said. “Bro’s irrelevant to me at this point. If you want to talk your s**t, let’s fight again. Because I’m ready to punch him in the face again. All the talking s**t is over with. I literally finished him in two minutes and then we had five fives where I guarantee I won three of those five rounds.”
For the record, Freire denied he said anything to McKee and he’s making it all up for the media, according to Kaplan.
If that isn’t enough to convince you that the rivalry between McKee and Freire is far from settled, McKee also questioned Freire’s star-power, taking a shot at the featherweight champion’s ability to draw.
“I feel like everybody’s gonna leave after the co-main. Like, nobody cares,” McKee added. “It’s Pitbull, you know what I mean? It’s cool yeah, and some of them will probably stay and watch, but for the most part, Nah. I feel like everyone’s gonna leave after the co-main.”
Bellator 286 takes place on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, live from The Long Beach Arena in Long Beach, CA. Follow along with FanSided MMA for all your news and highlights.