Bellator MMA

Bellator MMA presents one of its best cards of the year on Saturday night. The promotion takes over Long Beach Arena in Long Beach, California for a loaded Bellator 286 card with a featherweight title clash between champion Patricio "Pitbull" Freire and Adam Borics headlining the event.

Pitbull (33-5) kicks off his third reign as Bellator featherweight champion. Having avenged his shocking loss to AJ McKee in a competitive rematch, Pitbull has a tough title defense ahead of him in one of the promotion's deepest divisions. Pitbull is a deeply versatile fighter with a near equal split of knockout, submission and decision victories in a career spanning dozens of fights. The champ has no shortage of motivation and has expressed a desire to clean out the featherweight division before dropping to bantamweight in search of a third divisional title.

"He's a talented guy. He is the guy in this division with the most victories," Pitbull said at media day. "Maybe it's going to look like a kickboxing match. I'm going to try to take him down if I have the opportunity. If I don't have that, I'm going to strike with him. Nobody can escape from me from there.

"The most important thing for me is to get the victory Saturday night and keep the belt with the Pitbull brothers. Lightweight and featherweight."

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Borics (18-1) has quietly developed into one of Bellator's most promising contenders. Decision wins over Mads Burnell and Jeremy Kennedy confirm that he can go the distance and a flying knee TKO of Aaron Pico suggests the native of Hungary has a knack for flare. There is reasonable faith in Borics heading into a fight against the far more decorated Pitbull. The close betting lines validate Borics' self-belief that he is the future of the division.

"My side is different because I'm still 29 and I just get better every day. He's 35, but he's changed a lot. In the beginning of his career, he was more wild, more active. But right now, he fights smarter," Borics said at media day.

Meanwhile, the co-main event sees McKee make his lightweight debut against chaotic UFC alum Spike Carlyle. This is a new beginning for McKee, who has regularly expressed a desire to move up to 155 pounds due to the difficult featherweight cut. Lightweight appears to be McKee's home for the foreseeable future with the exception of a potential trilogy fight against Pitbull. Carlyle, also a former featherweight, bounced back well from his UFC release and pieced together five straight finishes. He recently choked out both Dan Moret and Koji Takeda in Bellator and RIZIN, respectively.

"I appreciate him stepping up to the plate. You know the Pitbulls clearly don't want this smoke. I think they're terrified of the last name McKee, as they should be," McKee told CBS Sports. "He's just a go-getter. He's going to come forward and throw. At the same time, I know he has a slow start... I'm looking forward to getting in there, getting back to my old self and making some statements.

"I'm still the champ. It is what it is. The arena is there for me. I think after the co-main, everyone is going to leave. They'll be fighting for themselves. It's cool though there are no hard feelings. It is what it is. Just man up [Pitbull], if you ever decide to man up then we can fight... I'm 100 and 1,000 percent focused on Spike and that's the key."

Check out the full interview with A.J. McKee below.

The rest of the undercard fills out with some rising prospects and veterans looking to hold serve in their respective divisions. Rising contender Aaron Pico is back in a featherweight contest against UFC vet Jeremy Kennedy. A win for Pico would mark his seventh straight and could put him in line for a title opportunity against the winner of the night's main event. Plus, former bantamweight king Juan Archuleta is back in a catchweight contest against Enrique Barzola.

Here's the full fight card for Bellator 286 with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook.

Bellator 286 card, odds

Patricio Pitbull -150
Adam Borics +125
Featherweight title
A.J. McKee -440
Spike Carlyle +340
Aaron Pico -575
Jeremy Kennedy +425
Enrique Barzola -120Juan Archuleta +100140-pound catchweight

Bellator 286 viewing information

Date: Oct. 1 | Start time: 10 p.m. ET
Location: Long Beach Arena -- Long Beach, California
TV channel: Showtime


Patricio Pitbull vs. Adam Borics: Pitbull is still very much the man at featherweight. Avenging his loss to McKee -- someone pegged as MMA's next bright star -- was a reminder that Pitbull is going nowhere. He can win a fight by any method and shown a resiliency to bounce back from adversity. There are very few fighters in the sport who can repeatedly reinvent themselves at a high level. It is the champ's ability to dictate the terms of the fight that should buoy him to the finish line. Working on the inside, against the fence and on the ground are his keys to victory. Borics would do well to stay on the outside and maximize his five-inch height and reach advantages. It is concerning that Borics' striking background has not translated to finishes at the higher levels of Bellator's featherweight division. Borics' performances in fights against Burnell and Kennedy -- decisive but at times too competitive -- are convincing enough to envision a chess match against Pitbull, but not enough to score the victory. Scorecards should favor the champ to retain his title. Pitbull via UD