UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski has explained why A.J. McKee can’t be considered the greatest 145-pound fighter in the world.
In one of the most anticipated Bellator fights in history, McKee and Patricio “Pitbull” Freire clashed in the main event of Bellator 263. With a $1 million grand prix prize and the featherweight belt on the line, the challenger gave the performance of his life.
Less than two minutes into the opening round, McKee caught Freire with a clean head kick, before dropping him with an uppercut. Despite initially looking to celebrate, the 26-year-old jumped back in for the kill as “Pitbull” got to his feet, and secured the memorable victory by way of a standing guillotine choke.
But despite McKee’s performance at Bellator 263, the UFC’s top featherweight seemingly hasn’t seen enough to include “Mercenary” in the discussion on the world’s best in the weight class.
In an interview with MMA Junkie, Volkanovski discussed the 26-year-old sensation, and said that, while he has no bad feelings towards McKee, he’s not the first fighter from outside the UFC to claim that they’re the best on the planet.
“I’ve got nothing against the bloke. Obviously, I had people saying the same thing just a couple of months ago. I get guys on my Instagram will go, ‘I’m the best featherweight in the world. I want to fight,’ you know what I mean? You’re gonna get people from all over the world, some guys that don’t even train telling me the same thing, so you can’t take that to heart.”
But despite many calling for McKee to challenge some of the best in the UFC, Volkanovski suggested the newly crowned champ can’t jump the queue of “killers” in the UFC’s 145-pound division by being successful in Bellator.
“For him to even get that opportunity to go and fight the UFC champion, just obviously, it wouldn’t be fair. Look at the row of killers that I had to (fight) to get to the champ, the same as the guys that are in the top 10. Absolute killers in the UFC. And they’ve got to fight each other to try to get to the top. No offense, but the competition, you gotta be honest, it is a little bit different.”
The Australian went on to admit that the Bellator Featherweight Champion is a top competitor, but said the UFC is a step up. He added that champions from other promotions can’t immediately compete with UFC title-holders like himself.
“Is he high level? Yeah, maybe. But you get to fight (Bellator) guys and then get a shot straight to the top…yeah, man, I wish I was in another promotion before I was in the UFC and got a shot at the champ, the UFC champ, but that’s not how things work.
“But again, fair play to him, but at the same time…I ended up seeing the highlights of the fight…he looked good. He did great. But at the same time, this is a whole different ball game.”
While McKee looks ahead to his reign as a Bellator champ, Volkanovski will be looking to continue his own when he faces Brian Ortega at UFC 266. In the pay-per-view headliner, the two current TUF coaches will settle their differences inside the Octagon. Having beaten Max Holloway twice in his last two appearances, Volkanovski will aim to conquer another of the division’s top contenders on September 25.
In the card’s other championship fight, Valentina Shevchenko will face Lauren Murphy in the sixth defense of her flyweight gold. Perhaps the main talking point leading into the PPV will be the return of Nick Diaz. He’ll be in action for the first time in over six years when he rematches Robbie Lawler next month.
How do you think A.J. McKee would fare in a fight against Alexander Volkanovski?