A.J. McKee and Patricio Pitbull | Lucas Noonan, Bellator
Still unbeaten in rematches — an impressive 6-0 run against fighters he has faced previously in Bellator — Pitbull admits McKee was “stuck” in his throat after the first finish of his career in 2021, a guillotine choke that the Brazilian insists he never tapped on. Months later, Pitbull said he never doubted for a second that he was “better than him.”
“That’s why I never gave up and insisted on running it back so I could beat him,” Pitbull said in an interview with MMA Fighting after his decision victory at Bellator 277. “I kept my mind strong and always had A.J. McKee in my head in every single training session. Every move I made since that fight was to bring this belt back to Brazil, and thank God it’s back.”
Speaking on a recent edition of MMA Fighting’s podcast Trocação Franca, Pitbull said he didn’t underestimate undefeated McKee prior to their first meeting in California. This time, however, Pitbull believes McKee definitely looked past him.
“He was too cocky,” Pitbull said. “Not only the way he talked about the fight but the way he behaved in general. He had an easy fight but I know who I am. Look at the damage I’ve done in the division before that [fight]. I’m still that guy that was knocking people out in the GP. I had one loss, but I’m still the same guy. I don’t think he expected me to frustrate him like that.”
It’s still unclear if McKee will stay at 145 pounds or move up to lightweight next, and Pitbull said the former champion “should move up if he doesn’t feel well in this weight class.” That said, he wants an immediate tiebreaker with McKee at featherweight.
“If he wants to do the trilogy, he has to do it the way the organization wants, at featherweight,” Pitbull said. “But if wants it at 155, I’d suggest him putting the million dollars he won in the GP on the line because I won’t go up without a belt [on the line] or for nothing, in a fight that doesn’t make sense [to me] because I just won. Put his million dollars on the line and we’ll start talking.
“[This win] cleansed my soul,” he added. “I was very upset with the things the media and fans were talking, you know? ‘His legacy is over, it’s gone, we have another champion and he’s a badass, he’s never lost, and he’s big,’ all these adjectives you can use to talk about someone who’s never lost. No one is unbeatable. If you keep fighting, one day you’ll lose. It’s no different with me. I looked unbeatable and got beat. A.J. looked unbeatable after beating me, and then he lost. The sport has defeats. I work hard to make sure it doesn’t happen, but it does.”
“He’s a kickboxer that has had issues in the past with takedowns and jiu-jitsu, but looks like he’s on a team now that has fixed it,” he said. “He’s a kickboxer that doesn’t knock people out that much, and I think it’s a very interesting fight. Let’s beat him up too.”