Scott Coker had to react swiftly during fight week in Saitama following the news of AJ McKee’s enforced withdrawal from his Bellator Lightweight World Grand Prix quarter-final bout with Patricky Pitbull. And the Bellator president declared himself happy with the replacement fighter drafted in to replace the former featherweight champ.

Discussing the situation during a pre-fight press conference ahead of Bellator vs. Rizin 2 in Japan, Coker said that McKee’s involvement in the tournament might not be completely over.

“This is a sport that this type of injury and medical issue can unfortunately happen from time to time, and this is a situation where medically AJ McKee cannot continue in the quarter-finals, which means he will be eliminated from the tournament, and we will have him as our first alternate,” explained Coker.

“You never know what can happen in the future. We hope in the future that we can put this fight back together for the fans. But we still have an amazing fight card and there is a fighter we are bringing into the tournament that I am very excited about.”

McKee’s withdrawal opened the door for Coker to draft in a fighter who the Bellator boss had hoped to include in the original tournament lineup. Rizin lightweight king Souza is deadly on the mat, and has become a bonafide star in Japan through his performances inside the Rizin ring. Now he gets the chance to parachute into the Bellator Lightweight Grand Prix for a chance to win the tournament title and claim the $1 million prize.

“We were able to watch (Souza) fight last New Year’s Eve against AJ McKee, and he was someone who we were interested in having in our tournament,” said Coker.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t work out at that time. But now, as his fate has it, he will be entering our tournament in the quarter-finals against Patricky Pitbull. Now the Japanese fans have something to be very engaged about in our tournament.”

Per the tournament’s rules, the bout will remain a five-rounder, but the matchup will be contested at a 161-pound contract weight, with some concession agreed upon given the short-notice nature of Souza’s involvement.

“This is something we talked internally about with my team and the staff back home, and we did reach out to the other fighters that are left in the tournament and their management and we told them the situation. They all agreed this was a good compromise,” Coker said.

“When Sakakibara offered to place De Souza, I said ‘That’s going to be a great fight.’ I wanted him to be in our tournament from the very beginning because the Rizin champion is super talented and he’s a great jiu-jitsu fighter, great MMA fighter and he is going to get tested this Sunday.

“We feel very good about it. If he wins, he will continue. There’s only a four-man tournament after that and at the end, there’s a million-dollar cash prize. There’s a lot riding on the line, everybody is going to fight their hearts out and I wish them both luck this Sunday.”