An injury to former featherweight champion A.J. McKee has shaken up the Bellator lightweight grand prix starting at Bellator x RIZIN 2.
Officials confirmed at a Tuesday press conference that McKee will be replaced by RIZIN lightweight champ Roberto de Souza in a 161-pound catchweight bout against Patricky Pitbull. The bout will now headline the Showtime-broadcast card. Despite the catchweight, the bout will still serve as the quarterfinals of the lightweight tournament. McKee will remain available to serve as an first alternate, Bellator CEO Scott Coker added.
Bellator x RIZIN 2 takes place at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, on July 30 (July 29 in the U.S. due to the time difference). The Bellator x Rizin 2 card, which features fighters from both promotions in head-to-head matchups, serves as the opener for Super Rizin 2.
Joining that later card, as also announced, is McKee’s old rival and Patricky Pitbull’s brother, Patricio Pitbull. The current featherweight champion will take on Chihiro Suzuki. The bout bolsters Super Rizin 2 after the injury withdrawal of ex-champ Kai Asakura. Hiromasa Ougikubo will now take on Juan Archuleta in a fight for the RIZIN bantamweight title.
Bellator x RIZIN 2 serves as the second head-to-head meeting of fighters from Bellator and RIZIN.
De Souza, nicknamed “Satoshi,” outpointed UFC vet Spike Carlyle in his previous bout to rebound from a decision loss to McKee at Bellator x RIZIN 1.
Patricio Pitbull returns to competition after an unsuccessful bid for the Bellator bantamweight belt held by Sergio Pettis at Bellator 297. Suzuki most recently suffered an armbar loss to Kleber Koike Erbst, but the bout was ruled a no-contest because Erbst missed weight and was stripped of the title.
MMA Fighting’s Damon Martin contributed to this report.