AJ McKee Jr. wants to prove himself in the Bellator lightweight Grand Prix.
Bellator president Scott Coker has announced 2023 will feature a tournament to determine their best 155-pounder. McKee Jr, a former Bellator featherweight champion, is expected to be in the Grand Prix after moving up to lightweight. During an interview on Weighing In, ‘The Mercenary’ discussed his intentions to fight Usman Nurmagomedov in the tournament with this quote provided by MMA Junkie:
“I want my title, man. Usman, then. Look, when I signed up for the 145-pound tournament, I proved myself the entire way through the tournament. I told everybody I’m going to finish everybody. So stepping into another tournament, I have to prove myself again? I mean, I have no problem doing that.”
In July 2021, McKee Jr. had his breakout moment by defeating Patricio Pitbull in the Bellator featherweight Grand Prix finale. ‘The Mercenary’ had this to say about the upcoming lightweight tournament:
“I’ve got one goal. If I could have had ‘Pitbull’ in the first round, I would have took him out in the first round. For me, it really doesn’t matter who it is. I’m just looking forward to going in there, putting on a great show, and claiming what’s mine.”
Although the Grand Prix participants aren’t official, Coker has revealed several fighters that will most likely be competing. He mentioned Nurmagomedov, Tofiq Musayev, Patricky Pitbull, Benson Henderson, Brent Primus, and McKee Jr. The tournament is expected to feature eight fighters.
— MMA Fighting (@MMAFighting) September 28, 2022
Watch AJ McKee Jr. discuss Usman Nurmagomedov and more below:
AJ McKee Jr. breaks down a potential matchup against Usman Nurmagomedov
AJ McKee Jr. has fought once at lightweight, a unanimous decision win against Spike Carlyle. ‘The Mercenary’ wants to prove himself to the division by taking out the lightweight champion early in the Grand Prix. During the same interview on Weighing In, ‘The Mercenary’ had this to say about the stylistic matchup against Usman Nurmagomeov:
“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 focusing on the lightweight Grand Prix, McKee Jr. has a tough test on December 31. ‘The Mercenary’ is taking on the RIZIN lightweight champion, Roberto Souza, at a cross-promotional event between Bellator and RIZIN. The 27-year-old has a massive opportunity to further his legacy in the main event.