Kindred Spirits

PFL
February 22, 2024
While matchmakers loaded the Professional Fighters League’s “PFL vs. Bellator Champs” card with can’t-miss pairings this Saturday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Clay Collard views his showdown with A.J. McKee as a guaranteed “Fight of the Night.”

“He likes to throw down, and he’s not like a lot of fighters that are kind of b----made,” Collard told Sherdog.com. “He’s in there to scrap, and that’s what I’m all about. I want to inflict violence on these fools.”

Collard—the 2023 PFL lightweight tournament runner-up—is no stranger to violent encounters. His semifinal showdown with Shane Burgos in August is considered one of the best fights in PFL history. Even though Collard fell short of the million-dollar prize against Olivier Aubin-Mercier in December, he sounds eager to bounce back on the PFL’s most ambitious card to date. It will be headlined by three champion-versus-champion matchups. Collard and McKee come into their duel without belts around their waists. However, Collard sees the former Bellator MMA featherweight champion as one of the most popular opponents on the roster.

“McKee’s held belts in lower weight classes in Bellator, and that adds excitement,” Collard said. “He must have a big fan base, because it seems like he’s got a lot of Instagram keyboard warriors who like to talk s---.”

Collard welcomes McKee’s energy to the cage. McKee has spent his entire career with Bellator and stands as one of the company’s most recognizable homegrown stars. He is a skilled striker, but he has relied more on his grappling lately. While McKee has not knocked out an opponent since 2019, he seems willing to engage with the Utah native.

“I’m looking forward to giving him one, two, three and just keep feeding him shots until he can’t take anymore,” McKee told Sherdog.com. “It’s like the fat kid who loves cake. You feed him enough cake, he'll stop liking it.”

On the contrary, Collard, known for his boxing, is most comfortable trading punches. It figures to be in McKee’s best interest to take him down early, but Collard hopes the “Mercenary” goes headhunting instead.

“I know that’d be a bad idea [for him],” Collard said. “He knows that’s a bad idea, and I think everybody knows that’s a bad idea for him. If he wants to stand in the rain and throw hands and kicks, I think that I’m cleaner than he is on the feet, but if he wants to bang with me, then ‘Thank you.’”

Clashing with a former world champion is enough motivation for Collard to prepare, but he enjoys the added pressure of representing against the new kids on the block. After being tossed aside by the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Collard revitalized his career in the boxing ring before signing with the PFL in 2021. He was viewed by many as fodder for Anthony Pettis in their respective promotional debuts but proved throughout the upset that his hands were world-class in terms of quality. Collard does not need to be a poster boy for fans to flock to his fists.

As one of PFL’s most intriguing attractions, Collard takes pride in carrying the company flag to battle. This card serves as a measuring stick for the former rival promotions, and Collard desires more than a victory over. He wants to see every PFL fighter dominate.

“This is our house,” Collard said. “PFL bought Bellator, not the other way around. A lot of people don’t give us credit. We’re in with close to the eight best guys in the world trying to win that belt, and I think people overlook that. So yeah, I’m rooting for all the PFL guys to give Bellator [a middle finger].”

Reference: https://www.sherdog.com/news/articles/Kindred-Spirits-192686

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