Bellator MMA has been wise to keep Patricio Pitbull and AJ McKee on the same schedule as interest simmers over a trilogy fight. Pitbull and McKee will fight on the same card for the fourth consecutive time at Bellator vs. Rizin on New Year's Eve in Japan.
Pitbull will fight Rizin featherweight champion Kleber Koike Erbst while McKee takes on lightweight champion Roberto Satoshi Souza. Pitbull returned to the forefront of Bellator in April, reclaiming his featherweight title from McKee in a competitive decision and avenging a first-round stoppage loss the year prior. Both demand the trilogy fight, yet point the finger at each other for why it's been delayed.
"Now he's in the lightweight division, I don't know if he wants to go down and fight me at featherweight again," Pitbull told CBS Sports. "But I was expecting he would come and fight me again. I would like to do that. Now we're at a draw and we have to finish this."
Check out the full interview with Patricio Pitbull below.
McKee has repeatedly expressed a desire to return to featherweight exclusively for the Pitbull rematch, despite Pitbull claiming the contrary. McKee argues it is the champion, who has teased a move to bantamweight to capture a third divisional title, who is stalling.
"He's doing everything in his will and power to avoid this fight," McKee told CBS Sports. "I think it's only right for our legacy. Not even just my legacy, but his legacy. As a fighter, as a warrior and as a champion, 1-1 the game is not over. Own that shit. Man up and step up to the plate. I think in his heart he knows it's 2-0 so he really doesn't want to step up to the plate.
"What I'm looking forward to doing is finishing this trilogy once and for all."
Check out the full interview with AJ McKee below.
The current and former featherweight champions are floating in opposite directions. Pitbull may drop to bantamweight while McKee made his lightweight debut at Bellator 286 against Spike Carlyle. McKee is interested in challenging newly crowned lightweight champion Usman Nurmagomedov, but the obsession with Pitbull takes precedence.
"Usman is doing his thing but to be a champion you must beat a champion," McKee said. "So I'd love to be the first champion that he fights.
"He's got champ material, that is why he's now the champion. Patricky [Pitbull] was gifted the belt. It was an early Christmas present from Patricio. Nothing against him. Y'all wanna fight? Let's get it. I don't turn down fights. I don't start them either, but I'll finish them."
Patricio Pitbull vacated the Bellator lightweight championship in October 2021 so that his older brother, Patricky, could fight for and win the title. Patricky Pitbull subsequently lost to Nurmagomedov in his first title defense. Do not expect Patricio Pitbull to return to the division he once ruled to avenge his family, however. Lightweight is his brother's territory.
"No, that's my brother's problem," Patricio Pitbull said. "He needs to take his belt back. Usman is a very talented guy. He's young but he's maybe skinny. My brother is a monster and he didn't fight that night. I hope one day he can get the rematch and take back his belt."