What does it take to beat the greatest fighter in Bellator history?
That question has perplexed contenders across two divisions for the better part of 11 years, and it’s the question A.J. McKee aims to answer at Bellator 263.
Saturday’s main event between featherweight and lightweight champion Patrício “Pitbull” Freire and the undefeated McKee is not only one of the biggest fights of Bellator’s calendar, it’s also one of the most meaningful collisions of homegrown names the promotion has ever put together.
If MMA had a true Hall of Fame, Pitbull’s trove of promotional records would read like a first-ballot inductee: The most wins (20), fights (24), title bouts (12), title wins (10), and finishes in Bellator history (13), not to mention the most knockouts (7) and second-most submissions (5) in Bellator featherweight history. He is the lone athlete currently competing outside of the UFC who could make a defensible claim for being the best in the world at his weight class, and he’s now up against perhaps the most exciting prospect Bellator has ever produced.
So ahead of this weekend’s top attraction, let us dive a little deeper into what awaits McKee. What is it like when the most decorated champion in Bellator history is staring you down with a scowl and four-ounce gloves, and what does McKee need to do to flip the global featherweight landscape on its head? We posed those questions to five men who’d know best, all of them past opponents who previously fell to Bellator’s king. What did we find out?