Patricio Pitbull has never denied that he’d love to test himself against the UFC’s best featherweights, but it’s always been as a representative of Bellator in cross-promotional bouts. With A.J. McKee holding the belt that was once his, Pitbull feels a different vibe.
Gearing up to meet McKee a second time in the main event of Friday night’s Bellator 277 in San Jose, Calif., Pitbull said in a recent episode of MMA Fighting’s podcast Trocação Franca that McKee tried to play negotiation tactics in the media and delayed an immediate rematch.
“I believe he asked for more money than could be offered,” Pitbull said of McKee, who fought all his 18 professional bouts in Bellator since his pro debut in 2015. “Maybe he turned down an offer from Bellator and asked for more, even though his purse isn’t low. He was kind of flirting with the UFC in the media — and, to me, that’s very unethical.”
On Wednesday’s edition of The MMA Hour, McKee said he’s set to make $250,000 on Friday, and that it always has been “a dream of mine and a goal of mine to own a UFC title.”
“He’s exclusive, he’s under contract, he’s the Bellator champion,” Pitbull said. “Bellator pays him a lot more than the UFC would pay him, that’s for sure. I know the numbers. And he was on this tug of war that he wasn’t going to win because he has a contract with the organization. So, sooner or later, he was going to have to go back to reality and look at the organization and say, ‘OK, who’s going to be my opponent?’”
Pitbull said he was offered a fight with Sidney Outlaw to defend his Bellator lightweight belt as soon as the company realized McKee wasn’t interested in an immediate rematch at featherweight. Pitbull then vacated his title so his brother Patricky Pitbull could get his chance to fight and eventually win gold, then he sat and waited for the McKee rematch.
Training for nearly six months for the rematch, Pitbull wants to “bite back” and reclaim the belt he’s held for so long.
“I knew he was dangerous and explosive, a finisher, especially in the first minutes of the fight,” said the Brazilian, who guaranteed he didn’t underestimate McKee in their 2021 bout. “He has an excellent first round and the first half of the second round is also excellent, and then he begins to slow down. We left with the defeat even thought I didn’t agree with the premature stoppage by the referee, but we saw he was superior in many things. There’s this taste of revenge, and I’m very motivated. But my mind is relaxed.”
McKee became the first man to finish Pitbull in MMA — his other stoppage loss came due to injury against Benson Henderson in 2016 — but the former champion continues to maintain that he didn’t submit or get knocked out.
“The referee went there and said the fight was over because he thought I was out,” Pitbull said. “I don’t consider that I was finished, I consider it a bad stoppage. But it happened, it’s in my record. What can I do? Let’s go for the next fight. It’s a new day, it’s a new fight, and a different ending.”
When it’s all said and done, Pitbull said he’s leaving California with his featherweight crown and an even more robust legacy.
“I’ve done a lot already,” Pitbull said. “I’ve cleaned the division out more than three times. I’ve won a number of tournaments and defended my featherweight title. I’ve won 10 world championship fights, moved up a division, even though I’m small, and beat Michael Chandler, so my legacy is more than built already. Now, it’s about trying to beat the man that beat me in my previous fight. That’s it.”