UNCASVILLE, Conn. – A.J. McKee hoped things would play out the way they did at Bellator 255.

An undefeated homegrown talent, McKee (17-0 MMA, 17-0 BMMA) watched from cageside as Patricio Freire choked Emmanuel Sanchez unconscious in the Friday’s main event. He was pleased, but unsurprised.

“(Freire) went out there and did his job, you know?” McKee told MMA Junkie at the Bellator 255 post-fight news conference. “(It’s) nothing I didn’t expect. He went back to his bread and butter. He rocked Sanchez a little bit and saw an opportunity as he said. He got around that neck and that was it.”

With the win, Freire (32-4 MMA, 20-4 BMMA) advances to the Bellator featherweight grand prix final against McKee at a date and location to be announced. Despite Freire’s three impressive tournament showings and a career of domination, McKee isn’t concerned.

“Now (that) he’s also in the finals and I can begin to analyze and assess what I’m going to do in the fight,” McKee said. “I’m a lot longer. I have a 75-inch reach. There’s no way he should get anywhere near me. If he goes out there and fights the way he fought that fight, I promise you he won’t get near me. He’s going to have to create openings (and) try to get on the inside. You’ve got to bring the fight to me. I know you’ve got the belt, but at the end of the day, I’ve got the reach. I’ve got the advantage.”

From the start of the grand prix in late 2019, McKee has rooted for this outcome. A fight between Freire and him – two fighters who do not like each other – will draw eyeballs and help McKee’s star power.

“”It’s a fight the fans have wanted for the longest,” McKee said. “On top of (that), he’s underrated, you know? He is an outstanding champ, from beating (Michael) Chandler. His accolades, his credentials, his record is phenomenal, but at the end of the day, no one has a win over me.”

McKee can’t help but tip his cap to all Freire has done in Bellator over the past decade. The respect doesn’t hinder his confidence, however. According to McKee, it’s out with the old and in with the new when they fight for the 145-pound belt, the tournament belt and the $1 million prize.

“You can go back to my very first interview,” McKee said. “Patricio ‘Pitbull’ has been the man. Nothing against him. He has great accolades. I’ve already said I’m going to be a champ champ. … It’s the new era. He’s saying my time is over? My time has just begun.”

Bellator 255 took place Friday at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. The main card aired on Showtime. The entire event also streamed on MMA Junkie.