BELLATOR MMA’s Featherweight and Lightweight World Champion Patricio Pitbull (32-4) and undefeated top-ranked challenger AJ McKee (17-0) previewed their must-watch Featherweight World Grand Prix Final and 145-pound title fight during a heated press conference on Thursday, just two days before they enter the cage in the main event of Saturday night’s BELLATOR 263 live on SHOWTIME (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) from The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. Click HERE to watch the exchange at the end of today’s press conference.
The culmination of the nearly two-year featherweight tournament featuring the greatest BELLATOR athlete in the history of the promotion and the company’s best homegrown fighter of all time comes with a one-million-dollar grand prize on the line.
Saturday’s exciting card also features former featherweight title challenger and No. 2 ranked Emmanuel Sanchez versus Denmark’s No. 8 ranked Mads Burnell and lightweight bouts between Usman Nurmagomedov and Manny Muro and Brent Primus and Islam Mamedov. The SHOWTIME telecast opens with a lightweight bout between No. 5 ranked Goiti Yamauchi and Chris Gonzalez.
Here is what Pitbull, McKee and their coaches had to say Thursday:
Patricio Pitbull, BELLATOR Featherweight World Champion & BELLATOR Lightweight World Champion
“This is one of the biggest fights of my career. I have fought several guys that were very tough too. I beat Michael Chandler which was revenge for me. Now is a new opportunity to show my talent.”
“He is very nervous, he doesn’t want to be there in the cage. When your enemy is making a mistake, don’t interrupt him.”
I fought four times against someone like McKee, it was Daniel Straus. I feel comfortable, I have several training partners in my gym like him.”
AJ McKee, No. 1 Ranked BELLATOR Featherweight & Featherweight World Grand Prix Finalist
“I plan on fighting smart, keeping my range, and making him bring the fight. Everyone goes out there and rushes him, so let’s see what he does.”
“All my training in my entire life has been built up for this moment. I’ve been on big stages since I was a kid. He thinks I’m nervous but I think that’s him trying to self-reflect and push his little self on me.
“There is definitely a lot on the line. Being undefeated, there is an extra 0, it’s not just the six in that check I am fighting for. I’m fighting to live up my legacy, continue my father’s legacy, and be a champ. It’s now time for me to go get my belt.”
“At 18-0 in the organization, there’s nothing left for me in the division. What more can I do? I want to go conquer the 155-pound title as well. I’ve been calling for it, before anyone did it I said I was going to be champ-champ. It’s time for me to go get my goals.”
“For 22 years I’ve been dreaming for this moment. It’s now here so you embrace it and enjoy every second of it, and you continue to build off of it.”
“It’s not going to the championship rounds. He doesn’t want to go championship rounds, I know that. If it comes down to it I can fight five fives. The Pat Curran fight was a perfect example, it was three five minute rounds of easy work. To do another two rounds like that is bread and butter.”
“Hard work and dedication is the key. My three-year-old brother is a gym rat already. I want him to fight for the love of the art of fighting and for the love of the sport.”
“You want to know what disrespect was? I asked Pitbull to sign a newspaper for my legacy and to hang it up on my wall one day. Disrespect was crossing my picture out.”
“Remember when you said you were going to beat my ass in front of my father? I’m going to beat your ass in front of your wife and kids. Now the disrespect is out. The cat is out of the bag now.”
Scott Coker, BELLATOR President
“This is a relaunch of Bellator. We have had about 16 months of doing fights in a closed environment where we have had to do fights without an audience. It’s been challenging for the fighters and the staff, and it’s been a grind, but we are finally here.”
“We have announced some great fights coming up not just domestically but worldwide. The fight this Saturday is an unbelievable main event. When I was watching the pairings I was honestly sitting there hoping that A.J. and Pitbull would be the final fight. Here we are 15 months later with $1 million on the line, the belt, and the tournament belt. I wish both fighter’s good luck.”
“Pitbull has been the champ since this A.J. came here, that’s how long he’s been taking care of business. That’s why this fight will be so interesting.”
“Sports need fans, and fans need sports. The fans are the oxygen of the people competing. When there’s no audience it doesn’t mean people can’t compete and do their best, but at the end of the day I do believe the fans can make a difference in the outcome of a fight.”
“This fight made a lot of sense for Los Angeles, and I’m glad we did it here. It’s the right place to have this fight.”
Antonio McKee, Team Bodyshop Head Coach
“We are either psychic or we have some type of prophecy thing going on here. This has all been written since he was three, it has happened step by step. He wrote a million-dollar check when he was ten years old and he couldn’t even spell one million.
We need to make sure we carry ourselves with respect and pride. We want to be respected and we want to be a trendsetter for people who want to do this sport. We want to be the example.
It’s up to him. He has the IQ when he’s out there. He knows what he’s doing, I have a lot of confidence in what he’s doing, and I believe in him.
We don’t talk smack about Pitbull, we just state facts. My son is younger, he’s longer, he’s stronger, he faster, and he doesn’t have the same mouth on him.”
BELLATOR 263: Pitbull vs. McKee Main Card:
Saturday, July 31 – Live on SHOWTIME
10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT
Featherweight World Title Main Event: C-Patricio Pitbull (32-4) vs. #1-AJ McKee (17-0)
Featherweight Bout: #2-Emmanuel Sanchez (20-5) vs. #8-Mads Burnell (15-3)
Lightweight Bout: Usman Nurmagomedov (12-0) vs. Manny Muro (12-6)
Lightweight Bout: Brent Primus (10-1) vs. Islam Mamedov (19-1-1)
Lightweight Bout: #5-Goiti Yamauchi (25-5) vs. Chris Gonzalez (6-0)
7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT
Women’s Flyweight Bout: #10-Vanessa Porto (22-9) vs. Ilara Joanne (9-5)
150 lb. Contract Weight Bout: Gadzhi Rabadanov (15-4-2) vs. Daniel Carey (7-4)
Featherweight Bout: Khasan Magomedsharipov (5-0) vs. Jonathan Quiroz (3-4)
180 lb. Contract Weight Bout: Joshua Jones (10-5) vs. Johnny Cisneros (13-7)
Lightweight Bout: Georgi Karakhanyan (30-11-1) vs. Kiefer Crosbie (8-2)
Bantamweight Bout: Brian Moore (13-7) vs. Jordan Winski (11-2)
190 lb. Contract Weight Bout: Justin Barry (pro debut) vs. Daniel Compton (4-3)