Two outstanding world-championship showdowns. Four of BELLATOR MMA’s best pound-for-pound fighters. One highly anticipated rematch. The promotion’s all-time greatest athlete striving to avenge a highlight-reel loss to the company’s homegrown superstar. A tournament final awarding a seven-figure jackpot to the victor.
BELLATOR’s fourth phenomenal fight card of 2022 promises to be one for the ages.
Fresh off a 117-second destruction of his upcoming opponent and claiming the $1 million bounty at the BELLATOR MMA Featherweight World Grand Prix Finale, unbeaten BELLATOR Featherweight World Titleholder A.J. McKee (18-0) hopes to take the next step toward becoming the sport’s greatest fighter as he battles former top pound-for-pound and two-division champion Patricio Pitbull (32-5) for the second time in less than nine months on Friday, April 15, at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT live on SHOWTIME.
In the co-feature of BELLATOR 277: McKee vs. Pitbull 2 at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., current 205-pound BELLATOR MMA World Champion Vadim Nemkov (15-2) will defend his title for the third time and aims to take home the $1 million prize three days before U.S. Tax Day when he squares off against the surging No. 1-ranked contender Corey Anderson (16-5) in the BELLATOR MMA Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix final.
Additionally, four preliminary bouts have been announced including a mouthwatering matchup between two highly ranked heavyweights as No. 5-ranked Tim Johnson (15-8) faces surging No. 6-ranked Tyrell Fortune (11-2, 1 NC) in a rematch from BELLATOR 239. Their first fight ended with Johnson securing a win that earned great consideration for the 2020 KO of the Year. The preliminary bouts will stream live three hours earlier at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on the BELLATOR MMA YouTube channel, SHOWTIME Sports YouTube channel and Pluto TV.
In their historic initial matchup at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., McKee stunned Pitbull by landing a punishing left leg kick to the head at 1:40 of the opening stanza at BELLATOR MMA 263 on July 31, 2021. The champion then continued the onslaught by unleashing a series of brutal unanswered head shots that floored the Brazilian legend.
Moments later as McKee prematurely raised his arms in celebration, Pitbull rose from the depths of defeat only to be greeted by a fighter hell bent on stealing his crown and claiming the $1 million prize. With the 25-time BELLATOR MMA veteran backed up against the fence, MMA’s brightest young brawler locked in a guillotine choke. With Pitbull seeming to lose consciousness, referee Mike Beltran halted matters at 1:57 of the opening frame.
“Hosting the world’s best mixed martial artists in the great city of San Jose is something that has been important to me during my career as a fight promoter and I’m happy to continue that with our card on April 15,” BELLATOR President Scott Coker said. “The rematch between A.J. McKee and Patricio Pitbull for the featherweight title, as well as our Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix Final featuring Vadim Nemkov against Corey Anderson are two fights that could headline any event on their own, but we are bringing both to SAP Center at San Jose on the same night to show the fans here that we truly value their support throughout the years.”
A native of Long Beach, Calif., BELLATOR’s top-rated pound-for-pound fighter has exceeded the lofty expectations placed on him since his professional debut three days following his 20th birthday. Armed with six knockouts and seven submissions, the Team Bodyshop product, who will turn 27 eight days before his rematch against Pitbull, has shown a knack for securing lightning-fast finishes with 10 coming in the first round. “Mercenary” has earned dominant victories over every fighter who has opposed him, including former World Champions Pitbull, Pat Curran, and Darrion Caldwell, who McKee submitted with a rare-modified neck crank that was later dubbed the “McKee-otine.” The winner of the 2020 Submission of the Year Award for his 71-second annihilation of Caldwell has fought a total of 33 rounds across 18 career contests (1.8 rounds per bout), while logging less than 41 total minutes in the BELLATOR cage since turning pro in August 2012.
One half of the vaunted Pitbull Brothers duo, Patricio has long been considered the crown jewel of BELLATOR MMA, where he currently sits at No. 3 in the BELLATOR MMA men’s pound-for-pound rankings. Holding a remarkable 32-5 record with wins over elite competition, including the likes of former World Champions Pat Curran, Juan Archuleta, and Daniel Straus (twice). In 2019, the 34-year-old Brazilian captured the BELLATOR Lightweight World Championship from Michael Chandler, becoming only the second BELLATOR athlete to hold two titles simultaneously. With 23 finishes in 37 professional fights, Pitbull has shown repeatedly that he possesses the well-rounded skillset required to reign over multiple weight classes.
Currently BELLATOR MMA’s second-ranked pound-for-pound fighter, Nemkov captured the BELLATOR MMA light heavyweight crown by defeating Ryan Bader via second-round TKO at BELLATOR MMA 244 in August 2020. Riding a nine-fight winning streak dating back to June 2016, the ferocious 29-year-old sports seven first-round knockouts, with two in the initial minute of action. After successfully defending his light heavyweight belt by earning a tough unanimous decision over Phil Davis, the pride of Belgorod, Russia and Fedor Emelianenko protégé scored a fourth-round submission of late replacement Julius Anglickas in the semifinals of the BELLATOR Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix during his last outing on Oct. 16, 2021.
Anderson, of Robbinsville, N.J., has ascended to the top of the BELLATOR 205-pound rankings by vanquishing seven of his past eight opponents, including a third-round stoppage of Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov at BELLATOR MMA 257 on April 16, 2021. Exactly six months later at BELLATOR MMA 268, the Rockford, Ill., native walked into the cage to the spellbinding sounds of The Doors’ “Five to One,” and took the song title literally by knocking out Arizona State University wrestling legend Ryan Bader in 51 seconds in front of Bader’s hometown crowd at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Ariz. In his first promotional appearance, “Overtime” registered a second-round TKO over Dutch kickboxing legend Melvin Manhoef at BELLATOR MMA 251 in November 2020. Prior to joining BELLATOR, Anderson tallied a 10-5 record with a rival promotion, winning “The Ultimate Fighter 19” tournament in 2014, and boasting impressive wins over Glover Teixeira, Jan Błachowicz and Johnny Walker, among others.
Additional bouts will be announced soon.
BELLATOR 277: McKEE VS. PITBULL 2 MAIN CARD:
Friday, April 15 – live on SHOWTIME
10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT
Featherweight World Championship: C–A.J. McKee (18-0) vs. No. 1-Patricio Pitbull (15-5)
Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix Final: C-Vadim Nemkov (15-2) vs. No. 1-Corey Anderson (16-5)
7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT
Heavyweight Bout: No. 5-Tim Johnson (15-8) vs. No. 6-Tyrell Fortune (11-2, 1 NC)
Welterweight Bout: No. 10-Kyle Crutchmer (8-1) vs. Michael Lombardo (12-2, 1 NC)
Welterweight Bout: Shane Keefe (2-0) vs. Tyson Miller (2-0)
140-Pound Contract Weight Bout: Gaston Bolanos (5-3) vs. Cass Bell (5-2)
*Card subject to change.