AJ McKee Withdraws From Patricky Pitbull Bout, RIZIN Champ Roberto de Souza Steps In

Roberto de Souza, Bellator MMA vs. RIZIN
Roberto de Souza, Bellator MMA vs. RIZIN weigh-in Credit: RIZIN Fighting Federation

AJ McKee has been forced out of his bout with Patricky “Pitbull” Freire this Saturday and RIZIN champion Roberto de Souza will be taking his place on short notice in the Grand Prix.

This Saturday’s Bellator x RIZIN event is getting a major shake up.  Former Bellator featherweight champion AJ McKee has been forced to withdraw from his headliner against former lightweight champion Patrick “Pitbull” Freire as was announced in a surprise press conference on Tuesday evening in the United States.  In his place, RIZIN lightweight champion Roberto Satoshi de Souza will be stepping in on short notice.

No specific reason for McKee’s withdrawal was given.  Bellator President Scott Coker mentioned in the press conference that MMA was a sport where sometimes “this type of injury or this type of mental issue can happen from time to time” and that McKee was medically unable to continue in the tournament.  Coker went on to say that McKee would be considered the first alternate should anything happen with the other competitors in the tournament.

Souza has not competed since his bout in May where he defeated former UFC and Bellator veteran Spike Carlyle in a non-title bout.  Souza won the title in 2021 and has defended the belt twice.  On the last cross-promotion card between Bellator and RIZIN on New Year’s Eve, Souza dropped a decision to McKee in what was only the second loss of his professional career.

Patricky “Pitbull” Freire will be looking to return to the win-column following the loss of his title to current champion Usman Nurmagomedov last November.  The elder Freire brother has been part of two crossover events between Bellator and RIZIN in the past and the Grand Prix is his third tournament as he was previously part of the RIZIN Grand Prix in 2021 and the season ten tournament for Bellator back in 2014.

Notably, the promotion also announced the addition of Freire’s younger brother Patricio “Pitbull” Freire to the event this Saturday with the reigning Bellator champion taking on RIZIN’s Chihiro Suzuki earlier in the night.