Some see it as the single-most important fight in Bellator MMA history, and the combat sports world will soon find out whether or not it can live up to those great expectations.
Patricio Freire will defend his undisputed championship in the featherweight grand prix final when he meets A.J. McKee atop Bellator 263 this Saturday at The Forum in Inglewood, California. To the winner goes the promotion’s 145-pound title and a $1 million prize for being the sole-survivor in a star-studded 16-man tournament that began back in 2019.
Freire enters the cage on a seven-fight winning streak. He last appeared at Bellator 255, where he choked Emmanuel Sanchez unconscious with a first-round guillotine on April 2 to advance to the tournament final. McKee, meanwhile, carries a perfect 17-0 record. He last fought on Nov. 19, when he submitted Darrion Caldwell with a modified neck crank in the first round of their grand prix semifinal at Bellator 253.
As Freire and McKee make final preparations for their blockbuster showdown, a look at some of the numbers that have accompanied them to this point:
34: Years of age for Freire, who was born on July 7, 1987 in Natal, Brazil—some 6,000 miles from Bellator MMA headquarters.
12: Submission wins on the Freire resume, accounting for 38% of his career total (32). His methods of choice: six guillotine chokes, two rear-naked chokes, two heel hooks, one armbar and one kimura. Freire owns 11 other wins by knockout or technical knockout and nine more by decision.
.719: Cumulative winning percentage between the four men—Benson Henderson, Daniel Straus, Pat Curran and Joe Warren—who have beaten Freire. They boast a combined record of 92-36.
1,990: Days spent by Freire as Bellator featherweight champion. He held the title from Sept. 5, 2014 to Nov. 6, 2015 and reclaimed it on April 21, 2017. A rare two-division champion, Freire has also ruled the 155-pound weight class since May 11, 2019.
4: Countries in which Freire has competed as a mixed martial artist. He has gone 18-4 in the United States, 12-0 in his native Brazil, 1-0 in Israel and 1-0 in Italy.
26: Years of age for McKee, who was born in Long Beach, California, on April 7, 1995. “Bad Boys” was the No. 1 movie at the domestic box office and Madonna’s “Take A Bow” was the No. 1 song on Billboard’s Hot 100 list at the time.
6: McKee victories by knockout or technical knockout, accounting for 35% for his career total (17). His list of victims: Georgi Karakhanyan, John Teixeira, Dominic Mazzotta, Danilo Belluardo, J.T. Donaldson and James Barnes. McKee holds six other victories by submission and five more by decision.
65: Wins between the three men McKee defeated to reach the Bellator featherweight grand prix final: Caldwell, Karakhanyan and Derek Campos. They sport a cumulative winning percentage of .699 (65-27-1).
1: Promotion in which McKee has competed as a mixed martial artist. He has spent his entire 17-fight career under the auspices of the Bellator MMA organization.
9: First-round finishes on the McKee resume. They include his 75-second knockout of Mazzotta at Bellator 178 on April 21, 2017, a 69-second knockout of Teixeira at Bellator 205 on Sept. 21, 2018 and his eight-second knockout of Karakhanyan at Bellator 228 on Sept. 28, 2019.