Although the Bellator brand has been around longer than the PFL by quite a bit, one of its biggest stars thinks he and his colleagues might be getting looked at as the proverbial red-headed stepchildren.
Later this month in Saudi Arabia, Bellator’s champions and standouts will take on their PFL counterparts in the first event after PFL purchased Bellator from Paramount. Former Bellator featherweight champion A.J. McKee will take on Clay Collard, who reached the PFL’s $1 million lightweight final this past November, but fell short.
But because the PFL bought Bellator, McKee thinks there’s a misperception out there.
“It’s Bellator vs. PFL for the other champions, but at the end of the day, it’s A.J. McKee vs. Clay Collard,” McKee told MMA Junkie Radio. “Clay said ‘PFL acquired Bellator,’ so there’s a big chip on these (PFL) guys’ shoulders already. But at the end of the day, us Bellator fighters – we’re coming for business.
“At the press conference, it showed – we’re all suited and booted. These (PFL) guys are comfortable having fun, dressed up in f*cking movie football jerseys and stuff. We’re coming for business, at the end of the day, and I think that’s the difference that’s going to set us apart when it comes to fight night.”
McKee, who will turn 29 in April, wrapped his Bellator career at 21-1. All 22 of his pro bouts have been under the Bellator banner. After he beat Patricio Freire to win the featherweight title in 2021, he lost it to him in a rematch nine months later.
But he made the move to lightweight and is 3-0 in the weight class with decision wins over Spike Carlyle, Roberto de Souza and Sidney Outlaw, which came at Bellator 301 in November – Bellator’s final event before the sale to the PFL.
McKee said even though he was a big-time homegrown star for Bellator, he might have to win over some new fans in the PFL era.
“It’s a new organization. PFL knows of me. Their fans don’t really know about me,” McKee said. “So for me, I see it as an opportunity to go out there and show them what I’m really about and showcase my skills to them. I’m not really worried about it. I felt it was an honor to be able to fight on not only the last Bellator show, but now the first collaboration show, as well. I think that just goes with my accolades, my achievements and the type of fighter that I am. I think they know what they’re going to get: They’re going to get a good fight.”