The Bellator featherweight Grand Prix finale between two-weight champion, Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire, and the #1 ranked featherweight contender, A.J. ‘Mercenary’ McKee has finally got its landing pad — in the form of a main event tilt at Bellator 263 from The Forum in Los Angeles, California on July 31. 

Headlining the promotion’s return to California, Pitbull looks to lodge the sixth successful defence of his undisputed featherweight championship under the Scott Coker-led banner, following his most recent win over two-time foe, Emanuel Sanchez at Bellator 255 in April — stopping the Milwaukee native with a first round guillotine.

For Long Beach standout, McKee, he’ll make his 18. walk under the Bellator banner, attempting to lift gold at the first time of asking, after a hugely innovative hybrid neck crank finish over former bantamweight gold holder, Darrion Caldwell at Bellator 253 in November of 2019. McKee currently holds a perfect professional record of 17-0. MMA Fighting reporters, Guilherme Cruz and Damon Martin were first to report the finale bout, whilst Bellator officials confirmed the matchup this afternoon. 

Riding a seven-fight undefeated streak into the tournament finale, Pitbull began the featherweight Grand Prix with a unanimous decision win over former bantamweight champion, Juan Archuleta back in September of 2019 before progressing into the quarter final stage where he defended his crown with a quickfire one-punch knockout over Straight Blast Gym mainstay, Pedro Carvalho.

A Bellator feature since his 13. professional fight dating back to April of 2010, Freire has also lodged other notable victories against the likes of Wilson Reis (x2), Georgi Karakhanyan, Daniel Straus (x3), Daniel Weichel (x2), Pat Curran, Henry Corrales, and took the lightweight championship from recent UFC lightweight title challenger, three-time Bellator gold holder, Michael Chandler.

On route to his final appearance, McKee, the son of Bellator feature, the veteran, Antonio McKee — has managed to notch wins over contenders, common-foe, Georgi Karakhanyan and promotional alum, Derek Campos. 

With six knockouts to go with another six submission successes, McKee has been a Bellator staple since his professional debut back in April of 2015 — spending his 17-fight career under their banner. 

Aspiring mixed martial arts reporter based in Ireland. Follow along at @Ross_Markey on Twitter for all the latest news, fight announcements, opinion, and feature pieces.