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Bellator champ A.J. McKee offers $1 million bet to rival featherweights for superfights

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Newly minted Bellator featherweight champ A.J. McKee believes he’s the best 145-pound fighter in the world, and he’s willing to put up the money to prove it after Bellator 263.

After trouncing two-division champ Patricio Freire in the finals of the Bellator featherweight grand prix, McKee issued a challenge to fighters in rival promoters like the UFC, PFL and ONE FC to prove him wrong.

“I am the best 145-pounder in the world, whether it’s UFC, ONE FC, PFL, I don’t care who it is,” McKee told reporters after putting Pitbull to sleep on Saturday night at The Forum. “I’ve got a $1 million cash in my bank. I’m willing to put that up against anybody else.

“I’m sure Showtime, Bellator, they’ll match it. Let’s do some superfights. Let’s get some big stuff going. Let’s change this sport as we know it. Unify these belts.”

McKee’s dominant win over Pitbull, the No. 3 ranked featherweight in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings, had MMA fans and pundits buzzing about potential fights with the top-ranked fighters on the list, all of which hail from the UFC.

The new champ scoffed “none of them” when asked to name the most serious challenge of the UFC’s top three featherweights, champ Alexander Volkanovski, ex-champ Max Holloway and current contender Brian Ortega. Then he reconsidered.

“I would say Max Holloway,” McKee said. “That was always my dream fight, superfight, as a kid. I’ve watched him just pick apart people. But at the end fo the day, I’m the best 145-pounder in the world. I don’t care who it is. I’m going to show up and show out every time.”

A cross-promotion with the industry-leader would, in fact, change the sport. So far, the UFC’s only steps toward blending brands came in the early 2000s when the promotion lent out Chuck Liddell for the PRIDE middleweight grand prix and then in 2017 when it co-promoted “The Money Fight” between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather.

If McKee is waiting for the cold war to freeze between the UFC and Bellator, he might be waiting a while. But he has other aspirations, as well.

“Champ-champ,” he said. “Technically, [the Bellator featherweight title and Bellator grand prix title] are one. So for me, it’s to become two. Being at 145 pounds isn’t the easiest. Maybe we get some superfights going, but I’m pretty much done with the division at 145 pounds.

“So, hop up to 155 pounds – who’s the best 145er? Was the best. I’ve pretty much been saying it, now people are believing it.”

McKee needed two tries to make the 145-pound limit for the title fight on Saturday. At 26, he said his frame would continue to change, making a move to a heavier division all but inevitable.

It just so happens that Pitbull also holds the Bellator lightweight title, so there’s a ready-made goal for the undefeated champ. But McKee isn’t totally ready to declare he’s through with the featherweight division.

“It depends on who steps up to the line,” he said. “Health is key. Making 145 pounds, I can do it, but as I get older, as I get bigger, as I get stronger, as I become more of a man, obviously it’s going to get harder and harder and harder. I’ve been wanting to move up. COVID, so forth, things have come into play where it’s kept me here longer than expected, but god’s timing is perfect.”