Scott Coker says Bellator Featherweight Champion A.J. McKee has a case for the title of the world’s pound-for-pound best.
McKee, who has only ever fought under the Bellator banner, reached the 145-pound mountaintop last month when he dethroned Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, and in doing so, won the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix.
In the main event of Bellator 263, “Mercenary” finished the Brazilian with less than two minutes on the clock. After dropping Freire with a vicious uppercut, the 26-year-old locked in a standing guillotine choke and referee Mike Beltran stepped in soon after.
Despite the lightweight champ’s complaints over the stoppage, McKee’s dominance in the headlining bout was evident, and the combat sports world has already began comparing where the undefeated featherweight ranks among the world’s best.
According to the Bellator president, he should be right up there in the conversation. Speaking after Bellator 264 last Friday, Coker suggested McKee has earned the right to be considered as the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter.
“I think he’s earned that right. ‘Pitbull’ is a legend here at Bellator and in mixed martial arts, and he was ranked (#1) pound-for-pound. I take my hat off to A.J. because he took care of business.” (h/t MMA Junkie)
On the topic of McKee’s incredible performance at Bellator 263, which extended his perfect professional record to 18-0, Coker revealed the newly crowned champ delivered on his pre-fight prediction, and expressed his belief that McKee is the best active featherweight in MMA.
“He told me the week of the fight, ‘This is going to be an easy fight, Coker.’ I go, ‘Really?’ He said, ‘No, it’s going to be an easy fight – trust me,’” Coker said. “He was really confident, and he went out and took care of business. To me, he walks the talk, and until somebody dethrones that kid, I think he’s the greatest fighter at 145, and pound-for-pound the best fighter in our company.”
But while many have suggested reserving judgement on McKee’s credentials until he fights in the UFC, including the promotion’s 145-pound champ Alexander Volkanovski, Coker doesn’t see anyone being able to beat “Mercenary.”
“I do (think he’s the best in the world). I mean, who’s going to beat him?… Who’s going to beat this kid? I mean, he’s that good. When I first saw him fight years ago, I saw something in this kid. I saw potential in him. He had a little swagger, the gift of gab – he had that ‘it’ factor, and he’s developed into a big star… The way he fought ‘Pitbull,’ it’s very rare you see such a dominant performance in such a big fight like that. It was his night.”
While McKee looks ahead to the first defense of his featherweight gold, many have suggested the 26-year-old could move up to lightweight in the future to attempt to take Pitbull’s remaining Bellator belt.
And with a number of mouth-watering matchups possible with a move to the UFC, many have called for the newest MMA sensation to make the switch to MMA’s biggest stage sooner rather than later. But whatever the future may hold, it looks to be a bright one for the young star, and for those of us who get to watch him in action.
Do you think A.J. McKee has a case as the world’s #1 pound-for-pound fighter? If not, who holds that title?