Los Angeles, CA — Literally dripping with sweat following the Bellator 263 open workouts, A.J. McKee addressed the path that has brought him to a title fight with Patricio Pitbull — after 17 fights, and 17 wins.
“Man it’s been a long time coming. 17 fights like you said, he’s been holding that belt since I first stepped in the cage. He’s been the man that I’ve been after this entire time, this entire journey,” McKee told Cageside Press on Thursday. “With him avoiding me, acting like he don’t know who I am and so forth, it don’t really add fuel to my fire, but it shows me that he fears me in a sense. He don’t know what to expect.” That gives Mckee even more of a reason to train hard, he added, “because any man that’s fighting off of fear, that’s something to fear in itself.”
Much has been made of the bad blood between McKee and Pitbull, the titular pair on the Bellator 263 card. Plenty of trash talk has been spewed ahead of their featherweight grand prix finale showdown — but McKee insists that it’s just business.
“For me there’s no animosity,” said McKee, adding “It’s nothing personal with Pitbull. I think he took it personal as me being that young up and comer, just constantly badgering out his name, trying to get at him. And then he kind of realized ‘oh maybe he does respect me.'” McKee insists that he does respect the champ and his accomplishments, but “at the end of the day, this is a game of chess, and he’s a pawn that’s in the way, so I’ve got to remove him from the board.”
As a featherweight slowly approaching the pinnacle of the sport, comparisons have been made between McKee and Conor McGregor. This fight in particular has a McGregor vs. Aldo feel to it, with an established champ and surging contender.
Mckee likes the comparison, he said Thursday. But, he added, “there’s something different, man. Conor, the money changed him, and he had already lost previous to that. I’m undefeated, I’ve got a different mindset, for me, it’s kill or be killed in there.”
Later, he added on McGregor, “he’s so comfortable that he’s uncomfortable, if that makes sense. I’m just looking for contentment. Same thing with Anderson Silva, he was so comfortable he was bored in there.”
Watch the full Bellator 263 open workout media scrum with A.J. McKee above. McKee faces Patricio Pitbull in the main event on July 31, 2021 at The Forum in Los Angeles.