Los Angeles, CA — A.J. McKee has oft referred to himself as his father’s revenge in the sport of MMA.
The elder McKee never quite got the credit he deserved during his MMA run, which saw him cut from the UFC after a single fight in 2011, despite a 25-4-2 record at the time.
At Thursday’s Bellator 263 press conference, Cageside Press asked Antonio McKee, now his son’s head coach, about the “revenge” aspect of his son’s career. A.J. McKee competes in the featherweight grand prix finale this Saturday, where he will challenge for Patricio Pitbull’s featherweight title.
“I was one of the original pioneers of the sport. Me, Randy [Couture], and a bunch of other guys, we were doing this— it wasn’t about money. It was about who’s the badass, and what style they represented,” McKee explained. A high-level wrestler who “did things wrong,” McKee didn’t get the chance to represent the U.S.A. at the international level. “But that didn’t stop me. I kept doing what I was doing, had a good career, trained some of the best fighters in the world.”
Everybody knows this, McKee added, saying it was “no big deal, no secret.” Yet while his skills as a coach are well-known, “I don’t want to get all the compliments, and I don’t want to be in all the magazines about what I did and this and that,” he continued. “At the end of the day, it’s what you do in your heart, and my heart is just to try to help as many people as I can.”
Never mind that revenge, then. Still, his son followed him around, from one celebrity mansion to another, unable to overlook the fact that the McKee family didn’t have similar digs. Perhaps it worked out for the best, the 51-year old, who last fought in 2019 (sharing a card with his son), suggested.
“I never got a chance to get on that big, big, big platform. But I’m happy that things turned out the way they did, because I became a better father,” McKee stated. “I don’t know if I would have been the father that I am today if I would have took on that next level of celebrity.”
The way son A.J. has climbed the path to the top might be the best revenge of all. “I’m happy things worked out the way they did,” said Antonio McKee.
“[A.J.] started from the very bottom. We didn’t get no extra treatment because of my career,” he observed. “In fact, he got regular treatment, like any other fighter, which was good, because it kept him humble. Then when he hit certain points in his career, he was able to make adjustments and you could just totally see the growth and adversity in his career, and how he handled it.”
“And now you have a fine-groomed champion.” Maybe that’s the best revenge of all.
Bellator 263 takes place this Saturday, July 31 at The Forum in Los Angeles. The main card airs on Showtime following online prelims right here on Cageside Press.