McKee landed a huge head kick and dropped Pitbull! McKee walked away thinking he had the fight won but the fight hadn't been stopped. McKee rushed back in and threw a knee before locking in a guillotine choke, squeezing until turning to the ref to say Pitbull was out. And he was! AJ McKee ran through Pitbull! New featherweight champion and McKee takes home the $1 million grand prix prize.
AJ McKee's ascent to the top of the Bellator food chain was completed on Saturday night when the 26-year-old scored a submission victory over Patricio Pitbull in the main event of Bellator 263 to win the featherweight championship. McKee not only claimed the featherweight title but also won the $1 million prize for winning the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix.
The fight opened slowly, with both fighters standing at range and throwing kicks. The distance favored the much longer reach of McKee, which proved to be key less than two minutes into the opening round.
McKee threw a head kick just as Pitbull ducked down, moving his head directly into the path of McKee's leg. A few punches later, Pitbull was on the canvas and McKee began celebrating. The fight wasn't over yet, however, and McKee rushed back in to lock up a guillotine choke to force the stoppage with the technical submission coming at the 1:57 mark of Round 1.
Pitbull and his corner seemed confused by the end of the fight. Pitbull had not tapped to the choke and it was McKee who told the referee the champion had gone out to the standing guillotine, which prompted the stoppage. The result held, however, and Pitbull shared a moment with McKee in the center of the cage with the men bowing to each other and exchanging some signs of respect.
McKee, who won the title in front of a hometown crowd at The Forum in Inglewood, California, was Bellator's top prospect after debuting in 2015 and rattling off 17 straight wins coming into the Grand Prix finals.
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After adjusting to the professional fight game against lower-tier opposition, McKee took a big step up when he entered the tournament but proved to be up to the task at every turn, scoring four stoppage victories in the Grand Prix to take home the $1 million and the first championship of his career.
"Man, all my dreams are coming true," McKee said after the fight. "It's amazing. We're not done, we're just beginning. It's just getting started."
Pitbull is arguably the greatest fighter in Bellator history, having held the featherweight title on two occasions. He still holds the championship at lightweight, leaving questions as to if he'll seek a rematch with McKee in an attempt to regain the 145-pound belt or move to defending his title at 155 pounds.
Elsewhere on the card, it was a big night for Russia as Usman Nurmagomedov, Islam Mamedov and Gadzhi Rabadanov all scored big victories. Led by coach and former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, these three took big steps forward in their development. Usman Nurmagomedov may have been the most impressive in scoring a first-round TKO over Manny Muro when he crushed his opponent with a knee and followed up with punches. The younger cousin of the former pound for pound great remains undefeated at 13-0 with 11 TKOs/submissions.
CBS Sports was with you throughout the evening for the latest updates, highlights and results from The Forum in Inglewood, California, with our live blog below. Stay tuned for updates all night long.
Bellator 263 card, results
- AJ McKee (c) def. Patricio Pitbull via first-round submission (guillotine choke)
- Mads Burnell def. Emmanuel Sanchez via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
- Usman Nurmagomedov def. Manny Muro via first-round TKO (knee and punches)
- Islam Mamedov def. Brent Primus via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Goiti Yamauchi def. Chris Gonzalez via first-round TKO (punches)
- Vanessa Porto def. Ilara Joanne via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Gadzhi Rabadanov def. Daniel Carey via first-round TKO (punches)
- Khasan Magomedsharipov def. Jonathan Quiroz via second-round TKO (punches)
- Joshua Jones def. Johnny Cisneros via second-round TKO (punches)
- Georgi Karakhanyan def. Kiefer Crosbie via first-round submission (arm-triangle choke)
- Brian Moore def. Jordan Winski via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)