Until they end up in the same promotion or the UFC and Bellator decide to cross-promote, a champion vs. champion clash between Alexander Volkanovski and A.J. McKee remains a pipe dream.
That hasn’t stopped fans and media from speculating about the matchup and with the unbeaten McKee’s recent triumph over Patricio Pitbull, the Bellator champion has placed himself squarely in the discussion for the best featherweight in MMA. In MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings, McKee sits in the No. 3 spot behind only Volkanovski at No. 1 and former UFC champion Max Holloway at No. 2.
Volkanovski’s top ranking is up for grabs this Saturday when he defends the UFC featherweight title against Brian Ortega in the main event of UFC 266 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. It will be Volkanovski’s second defense after winning a close decision against Holloway in their rematch at UFC 251.
On The MMA Hour on Monday, Volkanovski was asked for his thoughts on McKee’s rise and the suggestion that the Bellator star could immediately be slotted into a title shot should he make the jump to the UFC.
“Yeah man, look, you’re always going to get people calling your name,” Volkanovski said. “I’ve got people in my division in the UFC calling names, they’re gonna get them from other promotions and that’s gonna happen. But like you said, is that fight likely to happen? No. But let’s be real as well, even if the kid is good, I guarantee you’re praising him and whatnot, but let’s be realistic when we’re talking about look at my rise to the title and look at his rise to his title. It’s just totally different. You’ve got a bunch of absolute killers. He could be a killer himself, but he hasn’t had the competition that we’ve had. That’s obvious, but again, is he a great fighter? Yeah, he probably is. Will he beat me? No.
“But I mean at the end of the day, why should someone from a different promotion ever get a chance to fight [for the title] when we’ve got to go through a bunch of killers to get to that title like I did. GOATs of the division, some of the best featherweights we’ve ever seen, these are the guys I’ve had to fight to get a shot at that title and these guys can just fight in a different promotion. Again, not trying to show disrespect, but look at my resume and then look at his resume. I’ll be honest, I haven’t checked his resume, but I guarantee that it’s not as good as mine.”
Volkanovski has won all nine of his UFC fights since joining the promotion in 2016 and his past five victories have come against the division’s stars and stalwarts. He defeated Darren Elkins—who currently has 24 UFC appearances on his resume—by unanimous decision in July 2018, then rattled off victories over two-time UFC title challenger Chad Mendes, two-time UFC champion Jose Aldo, before knocking off Holloway by unanimous decision in a title fight and then successfully defending it against Holloway.
McKee made his Bellator debut in April 2015 and has called the promotion his home for all 18 of his pro bouts. In his past five bouts he defeated Pitbull, former bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell, veterans Derek Campos and Georgi Karkhanyan, and two-time Bellator champion Pat Curran.
The ease with which the 26-year-old McKee has added to his hype, but Volkanovski would like to see McKee earn his way to a UFC title shot in the future.
“There’s levels to this,” Volkanovski said. “Again, I don’t even know the guy, so I’m not gonna sit there and throw shade on him but I don’t know too much about him. I know he’s called me out, but let’s be real, I’ve worked very hard to get a shot at this. For someone to just get a shot just purely from winning in a different organization… When I was winning titles outside of the UFC, I wish I could just fight the champion in the UFC too. So that’s how I look at it.”
With both fighters currently under contract with their respective promotions, a clash of champions is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Volkanovski has a full plate with Ortega coming up this weekend and a possible trilogy bout with Holloway looming, so while he understands the McKee chatter, at the moment he sees it as just that.
“Of course these things are gonna get brung up,” Volkanovski said. “I don’t mind, bring my name into it, all good, whatever. But is it gonna happen? Probably not.”