Bellator Lightweight Champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire has doubled down on his claim that AJ McKee didn’t finish him at Bellator 263.
In the headlining fight of the event, which went down on July 31, Pitbull, a former two-division champion, looked to defend his 145-pound gold in the final of the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix. But his four-year dominance at the top came to a crashing halt at the hands of an undefeated rising star.
McKee, who boasted a perfect 17-0 record heading into the championship bout, rocked Pitbull on the feet before locking in a standing guillotine submission for the first-round win.
But despite praising McKee’s performance on the night, Pitbull previously said that the 26-year-old only “almost finished” him in the fight. And now, the Brazilian has stood firm on his claims that he wasn’t yet beaten when referee Mike Beltran stepped in.
In an interview with Ag Fight, Pitbull admitted that “Mercenary” had him hurt, but maintains that he didn’t tap or fall unconscious during the fight ending sequence.
“He threw a right jab, a straight left and a kick on the same side. That got me right from the start of the fight. I was rocked and he threw a sequence of punches and an upper and I hit the mat. He tried to win by celebrating, putting his arms in the air, I called him out on it. On my way up. I didn’t go for his legs and he grabbed my neck and squeezed it. Once again he calls the ref and tells him I’m asleep. But I didn’t go to sleep. I congratulate him on the win, he was ruthless. He made me make a mistake I don’t make. I felt like I didn’t go to sleep. i didn’t tap, but that happened.” (h/t Bloody Elbow)
Pitbull added that despite the replay broadcast in the cage showing one of his arms going limp, he was protecting his chin with the other arm at the same time. The 34-year-old said he doesn’t want to appear bitter about the loss, but at the same time, he’s unhappy that the record shows something that he doesn’t believe happened.
“When I was in the cage, I wanted to see the replay to show I didn’t go to sleep. The replay we watched was the one where the angle shows the referee moving my right arm and it’s limp. But yesterday I watched it from a different angle. That arm is limp, but the other one is going up to protect my chin. So I’m moving. I didn’t go to sleep. To top it off, A.J. said in an interview that I’d have been asleep in two more seconds. So he admits I didn’t go to sleep. I don’t want to be a sore loser, but I don’t want something unfair to happen to me. I’m pretty confused.”
After having his winning streak halted at seven, and his featherweight belt taken from him, Patricio Pitbull will likely turn his attention to his reign at 155 pounds. The Brazilian is yet to defend the lightweight gold since his championship crowning following a victory over current UFC contender Michael Chandler at Bellator 221 in 2019.
AJ McKee, meanwhile, will be looking ahead to his first title defense. Having reached the Bellator mountaintop at the age of just 26, and with 18 professional fights under his belt, “Mercenary” looks set for a long career at the top of MMA. With the recent comments from the UFC’s featherweight king Alexander Volkanovski, who doubted the Bellator star’s place in the conversation on the world’s best in the weight class, perhaps McKee will try his hand on MMA’s biggest stage in the coming years.
Do you think the Bellator 263 main event between Patricio Pitbull and AJ McKee was stopped prematurely?