Bellator 228: “Pitbull vs. Archuleta” takes place September 28, 2019 at The Forum in Inglewood, California. One of two Bellator “champ-champ” fighters is in action as Patricio Freire (29-4) puts his Featherweight title up against Juan Archuleta (23-1).
The main event will also be part of the Featherweight Grand Prix for Bellator MMA, but only the “Pitbull” fight is scheduled for five rounds if needed. Other tournament fighters for the evening only need a maximum of three rounds to advance to the “Elite 8” and two of those men are “Mercenary” A.J. McKee (14-0) and “Insane” Georgi Karakhanyan (28-9-1, 1 NC).
Despite a high percentage of wins in his nearly 40 fight career, Karakhanyan seems to be struck by bad luck more often than not of late. Since 2017 he’s 1-3 in four Bellator fights, although in fairness two of those fights are to former No. 1 contender Emmanuel Sanchez and one was a controversial majority decision.
McKee has no such complaints in his career having never felt anything other than the thrill of victory. It could be argued that McKee has already earned a shot at “Pitbull” a couple of times over, but he’ll still have to get past at least the first round of the Grand Prix to get it.
Today MMA Mania talks to A.J. McKee about facing a wily veteran and submission specialist like Georgi Karakhanyan in the opening round of the 145 lb. tournament.
“Oh I can’t wait man! Georgi’s got his hands full and I think he knows it. He actually asked for the fight which is surprising. Georgi’s kind of been asking for this fight. I remember I was doing an interview a while back with him. It was something Bellator had us doing before this fight (was made), like answering questions, and it was like ‘Hey so who do you want to fight next?’ and he was like ‘You!’”
The two fighters have known each other for years, so McKee was very surprised to hear Karakhanyan flip the script on him that way.
“I’m like ‘Ha ha — you probably really don’t want to do that, but okay, thanks for the interview!’ and ended his interview. I tried to keep it a little professional. The old A.J. wanted to start snapping off like I used to, but I kept it calm and professional. I was pretty proud of myself.”
McKee doesn’t have play it cool now. He’s excited about finally getting to respond to that disrespect inside the cage and thinks that he’s being wildly underestimated.
“I know Georgi is prepared. I’ve known Georgi for a while. He’s known me since I was a kid, and I think he still thinks I’m that kid, that 17-18 year old kid who’s bouncing around having fun play fighting. What he doesn’t realize is the mindset that I’m in now. Being 24, taking care of my family, going from living in a loft with five people to now buying my own house and having a mortgage — having to pay that mortgage.”
In other words A.J. McKee Jr. is not just the son of a famous fighter any more. At 14-0 there really shouldn’t be any doubt about that, but McKee wants to remind everyone all the same.
“I’m coming to hurt people now. I’m coming to end people’s careers. I’ve literally been in there punching and kicking people. Pat Curran was the first person I threw elbows at, and that was on the ground. Wait until I start throwing elbows on the feet, wait until I start throwing Jon Jones (type) kicks at the knees.”
Play time is definitely over and McKee Jr. says Karakhanyan made a huge mistake by trying to bring McKee Sr. into the fight.
“First round, Georgi Karakhanyan, he already knows he made it personal. I don’t know if he was trying to say it to get in my head or just talk about my dad for whatever reason, but... he fucked up! You fucked up mentioning my father and bringing family into it. I don’t know why guys like to make things personal, and talk about people’s families and their religion, like it’s so stupid! At the end of the day you’re going to get locked in that cage, and it’s gonna be you and me, and I’m gonna try to kill you. That’s literally my goal — I’m trying to kill you — until that ref stops me.”
Perhaps Karakhanyan really is “Insane” in the brain. McKee’s point shouldn’t be lost in the shuffle though considering what happened at UFC 229 among many other MMA events. He’s got a few more points to make as well.
“I’m looking forward to going in there and making a loud statement, not just to Georgi, but to everyone else in the division and that’s (by) getting Georgi in and out of there as fast as possible.”
McKee also intends to make the record books by sharing the Bellator cage with his dad, as McKee Sr. has a bout earlier in the night at 165 lbs. against William Sriyapai.
“That’s another phenomenal thing that’s going down. We’re making history man. No one has done that since the Griffeys as professional athletes and that’s baseball! This being such a hands on contact sport, and for my dad to be almost 50 years old, and he’s still hopping in that cage and throwing down, I think it’s pretty phenomenal.”
The show is on the other foot now as Jr. is spending just as much time scouting his dad’s opponent as the other way around.
“Yeah he’s had some fights under him. I’ve been kind of scoping him out. Dude kind of kicks like me! He’s got some power in them kicks, so what better training partner than your son who has knockout kicks himself?”
If both McKees are peaking at the same time, it’ll be one hell of a family affair at Bellator 228 in The Forum on September 28th.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of Bellator 228 “Pitbull vs. Archuleta” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.
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