Bellator 286, with Patricio Pitbull and AJ McKee, set for Oct. 1 in Long Beach – San Bernardino Sun

The last time Bellator MMA was in Southern California, Patricio Pitbull engaged in a memorable featherweight title bout with A.J. McKee.

In two months, Bellator is returning to Southern California and bringing Pitbull and McKee back, but with some changes.

Pitbull will defend his featherweight title against Adam Borics in the main event and McKee will make his lightweight debut against Spike Carlyle in the co-main event at Bellator 286 on Oct. 1 at the Long Beach Arena.

Tickets go on sale on Aug. 12 at and The event will start at 4 p.m., with the main card kicking off at 7 p.m. and airing live on Showtime.

Nearly one year ago, McKee shook up Pitbull and the MMA world. The Long Beach native won the featherweight title and the $1 million Bellator World Featherweight Grand Prix via a first-round guillotine choke, set up by a stunning head kick that briefly floored the champ, at Bellator 263 on July 31, 2021, at The Forum in Inglewood.

Eight and a half months later in a patient and methodical bout at Bellator 277 in San Jose, Pitbull won back his title via unanimous decision. It was a fight McKee thought he had won, pointing out he landed 39 more punches and 40 more total strikes and scored four takedowns to none for Pitbull.

Afterward, a frustrated McKee (18-1) said he planned to move up to the 155-pound division, which is where the 27-year-old Long Beach Poly High graduate will start off against Carlyle, a 29-year-old San Diego native who debuted in the UFC in early 2020 and went 1-2 in 10 months before being cut.

Carlyle (14-3) has since scored five consecutive finishes, including a come-from-behind victory via rear-naked choke as a late-replacement fighter at Bellator 272 in December. The win scored “The Alpha Ginger” a Bellator contract, and in a cross-promotional card with Rizin, he recorded a second-round guillotine choke over Koji Takeda at Rizin 35 in April in Chofu, Japan.

The 35-year-old Pitbull (33-5) will make his first title defense in his third reign as the king of the Bellator featherweights. He first wore the featherweight belt in 2014, lost it in 2015, then won it for a second time in 2017, setting up a run of five consecutive successful title defenses before running into McKee in 2021.

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