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A.J. McKee wants Usman Nurmagomedov in opening round of Bellator Lightweight Grand Prix

Bellator 263: Pitbull vs. McKee Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Bellator MMA will stage a Lightweight Grand Prix in 2023, which will crown the winner as the new 155-pound kingpin and pay him a hefty $1 million payday (bragging rights, too).

Indeed, eight of the best fighters in the weight class will fight for supremacy, including former Featherweight champion, A.J. McKee, who has only competed once at Lightweight, defeating Spike Carlyle in a highly-entertaining fight at Bellator 286.

But, “The Mercenary” wants a step up in the first round ... and he wants to go right to the top.

During a recent interview on the Weighing In podcast (via MMA Junkie), McKee says he would love nothing more than to face current division champion, Usman Nurmagomedov, in the opening match of the tournament.

“I think it’s the fight that everybody wants to see – on top of, I want to give him a test,” McKee said. “I don’t feel he’s been really tested yet. Patricky (Freire), he’s not a champ to me. He was gifted that belt from his brother – early Christmas present. To be a champion, you must beat the champion.”

Nurmagomedov defeated Patricky Pitbull at Bellator 288 to win the title and improve his record to an immaculate 16-0, which includes going 5-0 inside the Bellator cage. But, McKee has a great record of his own, kicking of his career a perfect 18-0 before losing his first fight to Patricio Pitbull at Bellator 277. While McKee is very aware of the dangers Nurmagomedov possesses, he’s confident his skill set is up to the task.

“For Usman, stylistically it’s just a good fight. We both have the wrestling. I would be intrigued to see that fight. I feel I have the advantage on the feet. But wrestling wise, maybe he can neutralize my wrestling, maybe I can neutralize his wrestling. And once we get to the ground, we’ve seen him pull off some nice submissions and we’ve seen me pull of some nice submissions. So, I feel like we match up pretty equally once it comes to wrestling and on the ground. It’d be a fun fight.”

Before McKee starts prepping for the Grand Prix, he will take part in his second fight at 155 pounds this Saturday night (Dec. 31, 2022) when he battles RIZIN champion, Roberto de Souza, at the upcoming “RIZIN vs Bellator MMA” event in Saitama, Japan.


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