Team Bodyshop is one of the fastest rising gyms in MMA, with a wealth of young talent under the tutelage of head coach Antonio McKee.
American Top Team, Jackson-Wink, Team Alpha Male, American Kickboxing Academy. Flip a coin, any one of these gyms is the best on any given day. Yet there’s a hundred other gyms on par that you have never heard of, at least not yet. Team Bodyshop is one of those.
Team Bodyshop may not be the household name that ATT is, however, former fighter and head trainer Antonio ‘Mandingo’ McKee Sr couldn’t care less. Cageside Press caught up with the always entertaining McKee last week, and wouldn’t you know it, the MMA pioneer hasn’t hung the gloves up quite yet.
“Our gym is based on love, it really is. We don’t have contracts here, any one of these guys can leave at any time, but they don’t.”
Playing the role of underdog is something that McKee Sr (29-6-2) is used to. Having competed in mixed martial arts before the UFC even had lighter weight classes, ‘Mandingo’ was always fighting out of his proper weight class. “It feels good to be on the undercard and then become the big dog,” McKee told Cageside Press.
“I’m telling you, we’re racking up these wins at the Bodyshop. We have always been one of the top contending gyms, we had one of the best and longest winning streaks in all of Southern California.”
There’s no denying the talented stable of fighters calling the Bodyshop home. Baby Slice, Joey Davis, Antonio McKee Jr, and phenom Aaron Pico are all currently under the tutelage of the elder McKee. Be that as it may, Team Bodyshop has an open-door policy, “All these guys are free to come and go as they please,” McKee Sr explained.
“Our gym is based on love, it really is. We don’t have contracts here, any one of these guys can leave at any time, but they don’t.” McKee Sr continued, “Coaching has really made me step my game up, we all learn from each other.”
McKee father and son will be doing more than just training together come this September, ‘Mandingo’ revealed. “I think people are going to be impressed with the growth in my game,” McKee Sr said regarding his reported ‘Father & Son’ fight with Bellator MMA.
“I’m not going to go out there and do what I used to do, I’m much more comfortable on my feet [now]. I feel much better about fighting than I did back then, so now its about more than just me.”
As far as a possible opponent, “I don’t know, and I don’t care,” said the elder McKee. “But I do know they [Bellator] can’t put anyone my age in there,” McKee joked.
As for the younger McKee, his father fully expects him to grow into his frame, which would mean a move up to lightweight. “I believe 155 is in his future,” said McKee Sr on his son’s future weight class.
“AJ is still growing, he is still relatively thin for his frame and he is only going to get bigger and stronger. I’d say next year AJ is fighting at lightweight.”
Antonio McKee Sr is an impressive man. Whether he is building Team Bodyshop into the best camp you’ve never heard of, passing his knowledge on to the next generation of fighters, or competing in a father son fight at 48 years old, this MMA pioneer will do it his way.