Former Bellator MMA champion A.J. McKee is staying where his professional career began. On Tuesday, the promotion sent out a press release announcing that the former featherweight champion has re-signed on a multi-fight deal.
Back in 2021, A.J. McKee won the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix in the featherweight division, winning the title and the $1 million grand prize, with a first-round finish of Patricio Pitbull. The two would meet again in 2022 with Pitbull winning his title back from McKee at Bellator 277 by unanimous decision.
In the press release, it was announced that McKee will be competing in the 2023 Lightweight World Grand Prix which was announced by President Scott Coker in the Fall of 2022. The No. 3 ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the promotion will look to add to his career legacy with the only promotion he has fought for as a professional.
Coker added in the announcement that retaining A.J. McKee was a top priority, as is the case with all homegrown talent that Bellator MMA has built over the years.
“Our top priority has always been to cultivate talent from the ground up, and with AJ [McKee] I can proudly say we have witnessed this young man blossom into a bonafide superstar in the BELLATOR cage. It’s also our priority to retain top talent, and with AJ entering the prime of his career, it was important to make sure he continued representing the BELLATOR brand, much like he did recently in Japan, for the foreseeable future. I am looking forward to AJ’s next challenge, an appearance in our 2023 BELLATOR Lightweight World Grand Prix, which showcases the best 155-pounders in the world.” (Bellator MMA Press Release)
Keeping A.J. McKee on their roster was undoubtedly a must for Bellator MMA as he could’ve hit the market as the most sought-after free agent in recent memory with the PFL and UFC likely being very interested in signing him.
Instead, “Mercenary” who just picked up a victory in the Bellator vs Rizin event on New Year’s Eve and picked up a win, will remain with the promotion where he looks to add the lightweight title to his collection. Even heading into the New Year’s Eve event, McKee made it known that he will be looking to settle the trilogy against Patricio Pitbull, no matter if it is at featherweight or lightweight, and now, that is very much a possibility.
Mike Pendleton is a current contributor to MyMMANews while also hosting his “On The Mic” podcast and is a former Associate Producer at Sirius XM’s Fight Nation.
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