For the last several years, Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire mastered the 145 and 155 pounds of Bellator. The promoter who has sought to compete with the UFC since its creation and who has closed distances since 2014, when the former president of Strikeforce took the reins of the company.
And while ‘Pitbull’ convinced the most devoted fans and mixed martial arts experts that he could compete for the title at any promoter, including the UFC, he was never able to generate enough buzz to make the deal worthwhile.
It is not something that is close, the differences between the promoters and the television contracts seem impossible to bridge, especially when Dana White has been vocal in indicating that he is not interested in a super fight with anyone from Bellator, ensuring that all the talent that they They have let him go UFC.
In August 2020, he even answered the express question of whether he would be interested in seeing Patricio with his fighters: “Honestly, I don’t know what to tell you.”
Freire has proven to be a tremendous talent in both divisions, with categorical wins over most of Bellator’s top-ranked players and a recent knockout of Michael Chandler, who fought for the UFC belt last May at UFC 262, but failed. convince the casual fan that they could beat the champions of the octagon.
The situation on the business side did not change on Saturday. But the first-round submission with which AJ McKee ended the Brazilian’s reign opened the conversation: Could the 18-0 undefeated compete with Alexander Volkanovski, Brian Ortega or Max Holloway? Will we see it soon?
McKee landed a kick to the head of ‘Pitbull’ with his left leg, then an uppercut and celebrated in anticipation when he saw him knocked out. Referee Mike Beltran indicated that the fight should continue so the American took the neck in a guillotine that ended in technical submission, as Freire did not give up.
AJ is the banner of Bellator, his 18 fights as a professional have been with the company since 2015 to date and he managed to be crowned at the Inglewood Forum, very close to his home and in front of his fans. A dream night in which he spoke of various options.
First is to try to replicate what Patricio did, a second title at Bellator and the second is the one that the fans want, a bet of a million dollars against the UFC champion.
AJ McKee’s million dollar moment 💰
– ESPN MMA (@espnmma) August 1, 2021
Volkanovski defends against Ortega on September 25 to define the 145-pound champion. With what was seen on Saturday, there is no doubt that AJ has the conditions to compete with them. He has a great range for the division, a powerful punch and a submission game that surpasses that of several within the top 10 of the UFC.
In that sense, he could be surpassed only by Ortega, who already beat him in the past in jiijutsu competitions. But in the stand-up fight, we can’t help but think what would happen against Volkanovski or Holloway.
Freire cannot be taken lightly, he shared camp and corner with Henry Cejudo in the most important part of the Mexican-American’s career. The former gold medalist in Beijing 2008 always assured that his partner could be champion in any promoter. Where does that leave McKee with the great finishing capabilities he showed off Saturday night?
Interviews for Volkanovski and Ortega heading into UFC 266 will not be able to avoid the subject repeatedly and fans will be in charge of making the biggest snowball on social media.
In an ideal world, we could see a super fight coming up. But in reality, McKee will most likely have to enter the UFC via free agency, like Eddie Alvarez, Ben Askren or Chandler did, and that won’t happen anytime soon.