Bellator featherweight A.J. McKee feels the timing is all wrong for what amounts to a “stupid fight” between Patricio Pitbull and Michael Chandler.
Chicago, IL — Undefeated prospect A.J. McKee (13-0) may finally shake the prospect label this weekend at Bellator 221. Going down in Chicago, IL at the AllState Arena, the card sees the featherweight star taking on former champion Pat Curran. It’s the biggest fight of McKee’s career to date, though it’s easy to say he shook the “prospect” label a while ago.
It’s more accurate to say he’s arrived. The Curran fight is just another chance to prove it.
Heading into the bout, McKee sat down with Cageside Press for a little one-on-one, giving a quick overview of his weight cut, before moving on to meatier topics.
No meat on the menu Wednesday, however. “I’m going to have a nice little salad, but I’m feeling good, man,” McKee told us. “Ready, prepared. I’ve got another twelve pounds, nothing too much. Another two days, six pounds a day. I like to cut then put weight back on so my body’s not starving, or dehydrated.”
Sounds like everything is on track. Which is good, because McKee will be fighting Curran essentially on his opponent’s home turf. That does not bother ‘The Mercenary,’ however. “No not really. I’m used to going into people’s back yards and fighting them,” McKee explained. “I’ve been to Ireland to fight Brian Moore in his back yard. I love fighting in people’s back yards. It gives me a little adversity, something to overcome.”
McKee, still just 24 years old, was originally tied to a fight with Pat Curran in September, which fell through. He’s excited to have another chance at the former Bellator title holder, saying that “I really looking forward to fighting him. He’s a great champion, he’s held the belt a couple times. He knows what it’s like to get in those deep fights, so it’s a good fight to go out there and showcase my skills, and do what I do best.”
That said, he is very aware that the fight is “not a win-win, it’s a lose-lose for me.”
After all, even without defeating Curran, “I get the title shot regardless.” Should he lose, “I get the first loss on my record,” and perhaps that title shot dissipates. “I’m not looking forward to any of that,” said McKee.
As a result, he plans to make clear that no one is more deserving of a shot at gold come Bellator 221. “This is the most focused I’ve ever been. I’m looking forward to going in there and making a statement,” he said, pointing to a recent example. “I always say, I like to make statements. No one had finished John Macapa when Pat pulled out, so I was like ‘I’m going to make a statement with John Macapa.’ And I went in there and knocked him out in less than a minute.” That came at Bellator 205. He followed that showing up with a submission of Daniel Crawford in Hawaii in December.
“For that fight to happen right now when you’ve got a 13-0 undefeated prospect in your weight class who’s been calling you out since his first day, no, it’s a stupid fight.”
“Pat Curran, you know he’s a great champ, he’s held that belt, he’s never been finished. Patricio couldn’t finish him,” noted McKee. “I’m looking forward to going in there and doing what I do best, and that’s finishing people.”
McKee is fighting on the very same card as Patricio Pitbull, who holds the featherweight belt. Only, the 145lb strap won’t be on the line Saturday. Instead, Pitbull is moving up to challenge rival Michael Chandler for the lightweight title.
McKee is a fan of those sorts of super-fights, but only “when the timing is right. When things are in the right place.” Meaning he’s no fan of having to sit and weight while Pitbull tried to become the next champ-champ. Something McKee does not predict will come to pass. “For that fight to happen right now when you’ve got a 13-0 undefeated prospect in your weight class who’s been calling you out since his first day, no, it’s a stupid fight. You’re gonna go get knocked the hell out by Chandler. Then, I want to knock his ass out before the grand prix as well.”
“For me, if I don’t get him before the grand prix, I want that first fight in the grand prix. I want my belt.”
Bellator 221 takes place Saturday, May 11 at the AllState Arena in Chicago, IL. The card airs live on DAZN.