Patricky Pitbull puts his Bellator lightweight belt on the line against undefeated Usman Nurmagomedov this Friday in Chicago, and guarantees he’s 100 percent focused on retaining his gold. Yet, he’s hoping that a clean victory can convince Scott Coker and Nobuyuki Sakakibara to find him a spot on the Bellator vs. RIZIN card on Dec. 31 in Japan.
“I’ve asked for it before they even gave me the [Nurmagomedov] fight,” Pitbull said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I didn’t know how many athletes would be fighting in Japan, but asked to be there. I love fighting in Japan and wanted to fight with those rules again. If I come out uninjured, and they want to throw me there, I’ll be ready. I’d be super happy.”
Pitbull fought three times in Japan back in 2019, representing Bellator in the RIZIN lightweight grand prix and knocking out Tatsuya Kawajiri and Luiz Gustavo before losing a decision to Tofiq Musayev in the final. For this year’s co-promotion, Bellator has decided to send his brother Patricio Pitbull, A.J. McKee, Juan Archuleta, Kyoji Horiguchi and Gadzhi Rabadanov to Japan.
Bellator and RIZIN belts will not be on the line when featherweight champions Pitbull and Kleber Koike meet inside the ring in the main event, neither will be Roberto Satoshi’s 155-pound gold when he faces McKee.
“The advice I give to my brother [about fighting in Japan] is, whenever you have the opportunity, kick him in the head,” Patricky laughed. “The fights are cooler, fans love that old-school style. It reminds us of when we started. We started training back in the vale-tudo days, watching ‘Minotauro’ and ‘Cro Cop’ and those guys fighting in PRIDE. We trained with no mouthpiece, kicking and stomping each other’s heads with no gear [laughs].”
Koike captured the RIZIN title recently with a submission over Juntarou Ushiku, his seventh straight finish in Japan, and Patricky sees similarities between him and Fabricio Guerreiro, who fought his brother back in 2013 at Bellator 103.
“[Guerreiro] didn’t have as many submissions as Kleber but he was taller and had some submissions in Bellator too, and my brother messed him up,” Pitbull said. “Patricio made it look easy, walked over him. I believe it’s going to be the same thing or worse because Patricio is way stronger and tough to take down and submit. Patricio is way superior.
“Kleber is skinnier but we’re not underestimating him. We never underestimate opponents, we’re always focused on the win and what dangers the opponents present, but I think it’s going to be an easy fight for Patricio.”
The Bellator lightweight champion doesn’t expect such an easy night for McKee, though. McKee won a decision over Spike Carlyle in his lightweight debut in October, while Satoshi enters the ring on a five-fight finishing streak, four of those in under five minutes.
“I think it’s going to be a good fight,” he said. “Satoshi is very technical and is improving a lot in MMA, both on the feet and in adapting his jiu-jitsu to MMA. I think it’s a close fight. McKee’s last fight was a joke. If he makes a mistake in this fight, he might get submitted. If he fights like last time, Satoshi might get him. Satoshi doesn’t waste submissions. When you go to the ground with him, he catches you.”
McKee won’t be the RIZIN champion if he beats Satoshi in Japan, and Pitbull doesn’t expect him to earn a shot at the Bellator belt either.
“Maybe because of his name and the fact he was [featherweight] champion, but I don’t think he deserves [a title shot],” Pitbull said. “He hasn’t fought anyone yet [at 155]. He moved up and already called me out but I heard he was offered a fight with [Alexandr] Shabliy and ran away [laughs]. I don’t think he has the balls.”
Bellator will put on a 155-pound tournament in 2023 and Pitbull expects to have the opportunity to compete once in his native Brazil, especially if McKee is across the cage.
“They said it’s almost done that Bellator is coming to Brazil and if that fight happens in the GP, I would love to fight him in Brazil so he feels the heat,” Pitbull said. “[Fans] wouldn’t let him sleep. If it’s in Natal, he’s screwed [laughs].”