A.J. McKee, Scott Coker agree McKee vs. Patricky Freire perfect fight for Bellator X Rizin 2 in Japan
For the second straight time, Bellator is taking one of its biggest stars to Japan.
At Bellator X Rizin 2, which was announced Saturday for late July near Tokyo, Bellator president Scott Coker will take former featherweight champion A.J. McKee (20-1 MMA, 20-1 BMMA) overseas to fight former lightweight champion Patricky Freire (24-11 MMA, 15-9 BMMA) in the opening round of the promotion’s ongoing 155-pound grand prix.
Coker said doing that high-profile fight in Japan is a testament to what Bellator wants to do with events there.
“We could have brought this anywhere in the world,” Coker said at a Saturday news conference announcing the event in Tokyo. “We thought about doing this in Los Angeles or doing it in New York, but as (Rizin head Nobuyuki Sakakibara) and I continued our dialogue, we thought this was the perfect fight for Japan.”
McKee won the featherweight title against Freire’s brother Patricio in July 2021, but Freire beat him in April 2022 in their rematch.
McKee decided to move up to lightweight and after seven years as a pro featherweight, won a pair of decisions at 155 pounds against Spike Carlyle and Roberto de Souza. The latter victory came this past New Year’s Eve in a co-promoted event with Bellator and Rizin in Japan.
Once he was in the tournament and matched up against Patricky Freire for a natural rivalry, Coker said he started to get antsy about when the fight would take place.
“A.J. was calling me every week asking, ‘When am I fighting?’ Coker said. “But we had to wait a month and it worked out for the better. I think the fans in Japan are going to get a great show on July 30.”
McKee said starting the tournament with the former champ and a natural rival is what he wanted. He thinks that will add some sparks to the event.
“I think this couldn’t have been a better matchup to start off the tournament, the world grand prix,” McKee said. “The rivalry between his brother and I, and now (us) leading up to our fight, it’s just awesome. Up until this point, there hasn’t really been a rivalry in my career. Me and my teammates are very cordial and respectful, but when it comes down to getting in that cage and handling business, we will both know what we are going to do to each other.”
Patricky Freire won the vacant lightweight title against Peter Queally in November 2021, but lost it to Usman Nurmagomedov at Bellator 288 a year later. Nurmagomedov is on the opposite side of the bracket, so the first time the McKee-Freire winner will have a shot at the lightweight title would be in the tournament final.