All that's left for Patricio Freire and A.J. McKee is the fighting.
Check out the final faceoffs between the featured fighters of Bellator 263.
Jessica-Rose Clark returns from an ACL injury to fight Joselyne Edwards.
Niklas Stolze hopes to earn himself some recognition with U.S. fans at UFC on ESPN 28.
Gilbert Burns is ready to put his money where his mouth is and fight Nate Diaz in November.
MMA Fighting was on scene for the ceremonial weigh-ins of Bellator 263, which takes place Saturday at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif.
Check out a highlights video of fighters facing off one last time before stepping into the cage. including the Bellator featherweight grand prix final between champ Patricio Pitbull and A.J. McKee in the main event.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Brent Primus is happy to have a new six-fight deal with Bellator, but he hasn’t been overly thrilled about how the promotion has gone about booking his first fight in 17 months.
The former lightweight champion will return to action for the first time since his neck crank submission win over Chris Bungard at Bellator 240 in February 2020 when he meets promotional newcomer Islam Mamedov at Bellator 263. The event takes place this Saturday at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. and will air on Showtime.
In an exclusive interview with MMA Fighting’s Mike Heck, Primus explains where his frustrations come from, being told he was set to compete on a few different cards since his second straight submission win and them falling through, knowing Mamedov is a dangerous opponent but being unhappy not facing a top-10 ranked opponent, his reaction to signing a new deal with Bellator, his plans to call out Patricio Pitbull after the fight, and why he hopes Pitbull smashes A.J. McKee in the main event.
Goiti Yamauchi is set to battle undefeated lightweight Chris Gonzalez at Bellator 263. | Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Yamauchi’s hiccups started in December 2019, when he missed weight prior to a submission win over Daron Cruickshank in Japan. He again came in overweight for a fight with Nate Andrews one year later, but this time the bout was cancelled. Four months later, Yamauchi had his winning streak snapped by Dan Moret via split decision.
The longtime Bellator veteran told MMA Fighting ahead of Bellator 263 that this camp was “way better than last time” because “I didn’t have internal and external distractions,” referring to his weight cutting mishaps and an ACL tear that affected his ability to train and perform at his best.
“I was coming off that terrible experience in my career and in my life of not only missing weight but feeling powerless that week,” Yamauchi said. “I couldn’t do much, and that has left remnants in my body, in my head. It was a very bad experience. I got very sick after that and had some personal problems.
“But now I thank the fact I went through all that. Maybe that was one of the most difficult moments in my life, but I thank them because I came out stronger. As Nietzsche once said, that which does not kill us makes us stronger. I’m super happy and excited to be back. My opponent is great for me, too. I’m anxious to go there and fight and beat Chris Gonzalez.”
Gonzalez is 6-0 as a professional with a five Bellator wins, capped off by a third-round stoppage over longtime MMA veteran Roger Huerta. For Yamauchi, who holds victories over the likes of Saad Awad, Daniel Weichel and Ryan Couture, the fact he’s coming off a defeat means nothing.
“Losing sucks, let’s be honest, but I don’t have that type of pressure, especially because I have a different impression of my last fight,” he said. “I don’t think like that, that I have to change that last impression. It happened as it had to and now I’ll focus and concentrate on my next opponent and give my best. I know that I’ll beat him when I give my best.”
Yamauchi admits he doesn’t know all the specifics about Gonzalez’s game and how he reacts under pressure given the fact he only has six professional bouts and no defeats. But that’s also a positive since “he’s the one who has to be worried.”
“I’ll either submit him in the first or knock him out in the second,” Yamauchi said. “That’s my feeling, that’s an insight I had based on what I could see of him. I’ll use my experience in my favor.”
A win over Gonzalez will boost Yamauchi to 12-4 under the Bellator banner and allow him to move one step closer to the top of a confusing lightweight division. With the 155-pound belt held hostage since Patricio Pitbull’s win over Michael Chandler in 2019, and no clear definition of what the future holds for the weight class, Yamauchi wants to make the most of his opportunity at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif.
“I want to fight someone ranked above me in the ranking [after Bellator 263] so it projects me to a title future in the future,” Yamauchi said. “Patience, of course, but I’m in the race. I want to be fighting for the title in less than a year.”
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Contracts are expected to be signed shortly for the former interim lightweight champion and one-time title challenger, multiple people with knowledge of negotiations told MMA Fighting after an initial report from ESPN.com. UFC 268 is expected to take place Nov. 6, and the promotion has targeted Madison Square Garden in New York City as the host venue.
A matchup between Gaethje and Chandler was reportedly in the works for UFC 262, but Chandler was instead booked to fight for the then-vacant title after now-former champ Khabib Nurmagomedov officially retired and vacated his title. Gaethje voiced his displeasure at the turn of events.
Chandler went on to face Charles Oliveira for the vacant title and lost via second-round TKO in his first loss in the octagon since defecting from his longtime promotional home with Bellator, where he was a three-time lightweight champ. Chandler’s UFC run started with a bang when he knocked out Dan Hooker at UFC 257.
Gaethje’s title hopes were delayed in a title unification match against Nurmagomedov at UFC 254. He was submitted in the second round by the undefeated fighter, who later announced he would hang up his gloves. The former WSOF champ saw a four-fight winning streak snapped.
Since then, Gaethje has vented his frustration with inactivity. When Chandler subsequently accused him of ducking a fight, he reminded fans of their near-miss and had a few choice words for the ex-Bellator champ.
With a busy Saturday of MMA events just hours away, MMA Fighting’s Mike Heck, Jose Youngs, Alexander K. Lee and E. Casey Leydon break down the stop storylines ahead of Bellator 263—headlined by the featherweight grand prix finale between champion Patricio Pitbull and the undefeated A.J. McKee—and UFC Vegas 33, featuring a middleweight main event between Uriah Hall and Sean Strickland.