A.J. McKee spectacularly finished Pitbull, backflipped off the cage, and declared his stardom had only just begun
- A.J. McKee just scored the most sensational win of his career.
- The 26-year-old dethroned Bellator king Patricio Freire with a rear-naked choke in the first round.
- Watch the spectacular finish right here.
On Saturday in the Bellator 263 main event, in front of his own fans at The Forum in Inglewood, A.J. McKee entered the ring a man and left it a king.
American has a new prizefighting superstar on its hands as the 26-year-old took his place amongst the combat sports Gods, destroying Patricio Freire - the consensus greatest fighter in Bellator MMA history.
Freire headed into Bellator's highly-anticipated featherweight Grand Prix final as a genuine pound-for-pound caliber fighter in the world of mixed martial arts.
He had scored big wins over Daniel Weichel, Daniel Straus, and Michael Chandler in recent years and had achieved rare simultaneous two-weight champion status.
In McKee, Freire competed against an opponent who exudes self-belief, speaks with magnetic charisma, and consistently showcases a fan-friendly fighting style.
McKee not only beat but annihilated Freire in just a couple of minutes, and that only adds to the Californian athlete's growing celebrity.
He's beaten every opponent Bellator boss Scott Coker has put in front of him - and he's done it in style.
Speaking to Insider in the last week, McKee told us he has no intention of falling into the trap falls Conor McGregor has experienced since leaving the UFC featherweight division.
Like McGregor, McKee is a fast-rising athlete seemingly destined not only for the top of MMA but, perhaps, pop culture.
But unlike McGregor, McKee wants to stay at the top.
"We are just getting started," McKee said in a post-fight statement sent to Insider. "This is only the beginning."
McKee produced the performance of a lifetime
McKee had the Los Angeles crowd rapping to Snoop Dogg's "Ain't nuthin' but a G thang" as the West Coast anthem accompanied his walk to the combat arena moments before the $1 million bout.
Wearing a Louis Vuitton bucket hat, McKee threw money in the air and walked with the swagger befitting of a man who never doubted his ability to "rip s--- up" on the night.
Approximately 90 seconds into the match, McKee stunned Freire with a head kick as he swung his shin bone like a baseball bat and cracked "Pitbull" on the jaw.
He then attacked the Brazilian with a six-punch combination that dropped Freire to the floor. McKee momentarily celebrated the knockdown, perhaps thinking it was the end, if not the beginning of the end.
As Freire got back to his feet, McKee instinctively locked in a rear-naked choke and, though he didn't get a tap, he told the referee that Freire was out, and so Mike Beltran broke the technique to wave the contest off.
It was all over.
The king is dead. Long live the king.
The McKee era has just begun.
Watch McKee's sensational win right here:
-BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) August 1, 2021
McKee's rise through the featherweight rankings to championship-winning status, defeating a Brazilian fighting legend along the way, was always going to attract comparisons to Conor McGregor's route to the top of the UFC after he beat Jose Aldo in 13 seconds.
Ahead of the contest, McKee even stole Freire's belt, just as McGregor had done before he poleaxed Aldo.
Both wins send shockwaves through the combat sports industry, but in a battle of featherweights - the 2021 version of McKee against the 2015 version of McGregor, there is only one winner, according to Showtime stablemate Jake Paul.
"A.J. McKee would kill 2015 McGregor," Paul said on Twitter after watching the first-round win unfold.
-Jake Paul (@jakepaul) August 1, 2021
McKee, who advanced his perfect pro-MMA record to 18 wins (six knockouts, seven submissions, and five decisions), said: "I always knew that I was the No.1 - and now I am."
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