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AJ McKee hopes cross-promotional efforts extend beyond Bellator MMA versus RIZIN.

AJ McKee tracks Bellator 263. Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press.

AJ McKee wants to “fully explore” Japan, taking in everything from snowboarding opportunities, temples to the classic car scene, but December 31st is a purely business endeavor. as he faces Roberto de Souza at the Bellator MMA vs. RIZIN crossover event.

A few years ago, when Bellator and RIZIN first tried cross-promotion, McKee (19-1) was immediately interested. He has now received a call. “Now the opportunity has come. And they picked me in the 155-pound division to represent Bellator and the US of A. I’m so excited,” he told Cageside Press in a recent exclusive interview.

The RIZIN Fighting Federation became known as the successor to PRIDE, which was once a dominant force in the MMA landscape that promoted McKee following its growth.

“When I was a child it is pride I’m watching rampage [Jackson] Blast power to the head of the shogun. [Rua] kneeling in front of people Soccer kicks from Sakuraba,” McGee recalls. “I’m trying to bring back some of the old-school thrills.”

Demetrius Johnson, of course, ran into trouble with the old PRIDE rule not too long ago. Kneeling on the floor in his first bout against Adriano Moraes in ONE Championship, McKee admitted it could be dangerous. But with his feet, he believes he has an advantage over his opponent, RIZIN Lightweight Champion.

“This is not the fight that I intended to wrestle. This guy is a master jiu-jitsu artist. He has submitted his work many times before. So I think he’s going to be the one to try and take the wrestling initiative,” McGee said. “I know that’s my strong suit. But I think my advantage is using my feet. and wrestling defense all day long.”

Of course, McKee was well-versed and played jujitsu from a young age. He will feel comfortable there too. “I haven’t seen so many people on the ground actually try to punch him. So if we hit the ground I’m looking forward to unloading some grenades on him.”

No name was on the New Year’s Eve lineup, but McKee was a game to try for new belts like Kyoji Horiguchi did, holding positions in Bellator MMA and RIZIN simultaneously.

“For me it’s all about the belt. Especially as the main event, I really want to fight five five, put the belt on the line, maybe we can do a little bit of a deal. I’ll bring the belt Winner takes all He belted it or I belted it. I’m looking forward to getting the belt.”

And while he won’t officially win a championship at Bellator MMA vs. RIZIN, McKee is ready to expand his promotions between organizations, be it PFL or ONE Championship.

“Sure man. I feel like bringing the belt together. combine belt into one and show who is the best in the world no matter which organization I feel like some of the best fighters come from all over the world,” McGee said. “Myself, I feel like I am the best fighter in the world. For me, this opportunity is a dream come true. It was an opportunity for me to go out there and show off my skills. and just show me what i can do especially in the new division.”

“I saw ONE. [Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong] Calling the UFC, he’s like, ‘I only care about the UFC’. You only care about the UFC, but you know Uncle Dana doesn’t do that.”

Sityodtong said so, while ONE Lightweight World Champion Christian Lee expressed similar sentiments.

“Why don’t you bring that smoke to Bellator and we’ll take care of it all,” Maggie suggested. “Hopefully we’ll have a response after this fight. maybe we can do maybe we don’t we probably won’t but wait The offer is on the table.”

Although no other cross-programmed superfights were featured against AJ McKee, there was always a trilogy fight with Patricio Pitbull. Featherweight is not over yet.

“We have to get the business done. to be judged But the ball wasn’t in my court, I didn’t call Mr. [Scott] Coker does. I feel Patricio doesn’t want to fight again. I think he knows it’s 2-0, he doesn’t want a third fight. That’s why he’s talking about falling into Division 135 and so on,” McGee said. “But I think that’s just right. for his inheritance, for my inheritance You can’t leave the game unfinished at 1-1, you have to finish it. So hopefully we can get something thinking about where we can go in there and get it last.”

AJ McKee faces Roberto de Souza as part of the promotion during Bellator MMA vs. RIZIN on December 31, 2022 in Saitama City. Japan

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