INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Los Angeles, and the game of blended martial arts, has a brand new star athlete.
The undefeated A.J. McKee submitted Patricio “Pitbull” Freire by way of guillotine choke at simply 1 minute, 57 seconds of the primary spherical to win the Bellator featherweight title Saturday night time in the primary occasion of Bellator 263 in entrance of a raucous, partisan crowd on the LA Discussion board.
McKee additionally gained the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix and its $1 million prize with the victory.
The almost sold-out crowd gave McKee, a local of Lengthy Seashore, California, an enormous pop when he walked out, then chanted “A.J.!” earlier than the bout began. When McKee completed the bout, the Discussion board exploded, and other people began to hurry the cage earlier than being stopped by safety. This was by far the most important victory of McKee’s profession in one of many largest fights in promotion historical past — a sort of passing-of-the-torch second.
The stoppage was a wild one. McKee rocked “Pitbull” with a left head kick after which stopped as if he gained. However referee Mike Beltran instructed him to battle on. So McKee grabbed a weak Freire in a guillotine choke with each of them standing and squeezed till “Pitbull” appeared to go unconscious. At that time, Beltran stepped in and stopped it.
Earlier than Saturday night time, “Pitbull” had been completed simply as soon as earlier than in his MMA profession, and it was attributable to a leg harm in 2016 in opposition to Benson Henderson.
Coming in, ESPN had “Pitbull” ranked No. 3 on this planet at featherweight. Freire is essentially the most achieved fighter in Bellator historical past, holding a plethora of the promotion’s most vital information. He’s additionally the Bellator light-weight champion and holds a first-round TKO win over UFC light-weight contender Michael Chandler.
McKee is Bellator’s red-hot younger star, somebody who could possibly be one of many largest attracts in MMA sooner or later. There was dangerous blood right here, too. Freire and McKee almost acquired right into a bodily altercation on the information convention Thursday, with “Pitbull” having to be escorted off stage. Freire was offended that McKee mentioned he would beat him in entrance of his spouse and youngsters, which got here after Freire mentioned he would beat McKee in entrance of his father and coach.
McKee (18-0) has completed 4 straight fights. “The Mercenary” owns essentially the most consecutive victories in Bellator historical past (18), essentially the most submission wins in Bellator featherweight historical past (six) and essentially the most stoppages within the Bellator 145-pound division ever (13). McKee, 26, is coached by his father, Antonio, who himself was a longtime MMA fighter.
Freire (32-5) was on a seven-fight successful streak coming in and had gained 15 of 17 total. The Brazil native has essentially the most wins (20) and most title battle wins (10) in Bellator historical past, plus he’s tied for essentially the most finishes with Chandler (13). Freire, 34, is a two-time Bellator featherweight champion with seven profitable title defenses within the division.