A.J. McKee lives ‘to hurt people’ and he gets his next chance at Bellator 182

first_img Published on August 24, 2017 at 3:20 pm Contact Josh: jlschafe@syr.edu | @Schafer_44 Facebook Twitter Google+ Growing up in Long Beach, California, A.J. McKee dealt with his fair share of bullies. One day, the then-135 pound wrestler remembered playing basketball with his friends when a “Crip gang member” approached the group. He kicked the boys’ basketball in the air, McKee said, and glared toward them.“What are you going to do about it?” he asked the group of boys. McKee responded with a knockout strike to the gang member’s face.  The incident wasn’t McKee’s first unsanctioned bout. Several street fights forced McKee’s father, Antonio, a famous mixed martial arts fighter and trainer, to face the truth he’d long attempted to ignore: Fighting was in his son’s blood. “Knocking someone’s head off their shoulders, that’s what I live for,” McKee said. “I live to hurt people. It’s a sick thing, but hey, it is what is.” AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe now-22-year-old McKee is undefeated and entering his ninth Bellator MMA fight on Friday at Bellator 182. In the featherweight division, the 5-foot-10, 145-pound fighter has finished six of his eight fights — four by knockout or technical knockout and the other two by submission. McKee (8-0) will fight against journeyman Blair Tugman (10-6) at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York. “This kid is dynamic,” Scott Coker, the president of Bellator MMA said. “He’s put on some great fights, he’s entertaining, and he’s got that swagger about him. We have some high hopes for him.”McKee grew up surrounded by MMA fighters at Antonio’s gym, watching future Ultimate Fighting Championship stars Rampage Jackson and Dan Henderson train in their primes. But he has an advantage the MMA greats lacked, Antonio said. McKee solely trained with him, beginning wrestling at 3 years old and jiu-jitsu a few years later.McKee is a natural southpaw, and many in the MMA call him “The Mercenary.” He can fight with either leg leading his fight stance, something he’s worked on since the beginning. He strikes equally as hard with his left or right leg and is equipped with a ground game similar to his father, who once competed for over seven-straight years without a loss. “He’s a complete, universal, f*cking soldier,” Antonio said. “He’s complete. He’s long. His weapons, he’s been trained how to use the frames, the angles. And the more we wait, the better he’s getting.”In the cage, his father’s influence shows. Antonio doesn’t tell his son which moves to make, but he asks what McKee sees inside the ring. Against Brandon Phillips in Bellator 171, McKee saw an advantage in reach. Despite being hit by two low blows in the groin area and consistent taunting from Phillips, McKee did not derail. He fought from a distance and prevented Philips from getting close enough to strike his body. There was no knockout, but after three full rounds, the decision ended unanimously in McKee’s favor. In his most recent fight at Bellator 178, McKee saw something different. He saw an opening for a kick and knocked out Dominic Mazzotta, his opponent, just 75 seconds into the fight. “I’m just unorthodox. You never (know) what you’re gonna get, or what’s going to happen with A.J.,” McKee said, breaking into third-person. “If he feels like kicking today, if he feels like punching today, if he feels like taking someone down and submitting them today. “You just never know what you’re gonna get, but you’re going to get a show.” Commentslast_img

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