The Set Up
Rivalries come, rivalries go, but next Friday might be the most important Bellator fight; EVER. It’s also the first time they’ll hold a card away from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut since returning from their Covid-19 hiatus. And the timing and location with the variants to Covid-19 rising has some dramatic irony to it.
California has some of the tougher restrictions right now, and it was that same state that put the kibosh on the UFC’s first card since the outbreak started. Since then, boxing as well as other sports have come back one at a time. Now it’s Bellator’s turn to join them in the Golden State. Recently the organization also announced their second card outside of Mohegan will be in South Dakota on August 20th.
The picking of California is also key for a couple of reasons. Los Angeles is the hometown of challenger AJ McKee, and it was important to bring the fight versus the tough double-champ Patricio Pitbull.
Most Important Bellator Fight
Team Pitbull, especially Patricio; has had some classic fights at both feather and lightweight. He’s battled Michael Chandler, Daniel Weichel, Emmanuel Sanchez in tough wars. But what sets this fight apart from all others? Simply put, it’s for all the marbles. Okay, maybe just one large marb… err championship and a super-sized paycheck. Not only is the featherweight strap up for grabs, but it’s the finals in the featherweight grand prix. And with their hand raised, the winner also takes home a one million dollar check. It’s also a fight between two red-hot prime fighters.
Most fight “fans” don’t give Pitbull the respect he deserves. And that’s sadly an old reason why. Bellator is just not the in-your-face promotion that the UFC is. Despite being Brazilian and speaking more Portuguese than English, Pitbull is still quite the character, and trash talker; when given the chance. And being the company’s 145 and 155-pound champion is always busy with challengers on all sides. His only hiccup was a stretch in 2015-16 going 3-2. Right now he’s on a seven-fight win streak since then. Of his 32 wins, 23 are finishes, most of which are devastating.
What’s On The Line For Pitbull
There’s been talk he’d relinquish the lightweight strap to give his brother Patricky a shot at it. They also teased, they’d fight each other. But deep down the 34-year-old wants to continue this run.
And For A.J. McKee…
The brash undefeated fighter isn’t going to be happy with just the 145 strap. He’s said all along, he wants to then go up and take Pitbull’s other belt too. The only bump in McKee’s career happened back in his third fight as an amateur. He’s also fighting for family legacy, pulling away from his father-coach Antonio as the best in the family business.
Both fighters in talking to the media before squaring off in front of The Forum have called for finishes.
The only downside for McKee might be any hometown pressures.
Most Important Bellator Fight: The Finish
One thing is certain. No matter who wins, this won’t be the only time they fight each other. They are the two faces of the company, and it could turn into a best-of-seven type series. And while it’ll be one highlight move after the next, it most likely won’t be going to the judge’s scorecards.