He may be known as “The Mercenary,” but A.J. McKee is staying loyal, and staying put with Bellator MMA.
Now one of the promotion’s biggest stars, former featherweight champ McKee (20-1) has spent the entirety of his professional career with Bellator. And it’s with Bellator that he will remain for the foreseeable future.
Promotion officials announced Tuesday that they had re-signed the 27-year old to a multi-year, multi-fight deal. That scuttles any thought of McKee jumping ship to the UFC, something that was at least a possibility given the talent McKee has shown.
The news comes on the heels of the historic Bellator MMA vs. RIZIN card on New Year’s Eve, which saw McKee headline the show and represent Bellator in a win over RIZIN lightweight champion Roberto de Souza.
That victory was McKee’s second straight as a lightweight, after moving up a division following the loss of his 145lb title to Patricio Pitbull. Their career series remains tied at 1-1, with McKee openly expressing an interest in a third fight.
“Our top priority has always been to cultivate talent from the ground up, and with AJ [McKee] I can proudly say we have witnessed this young man blossom into a bonafide superstar in the BELLATOR cage,” said President Scott Coker via Tuesday’s press release announcing the A.J. McKee deal. “It’s also our priority to retain top talent, and with AJ entering the prime of his career, it was important to make sure he continued representing the BELLATOR brand, much like he did recently in Japan, for the foreseeable future. I am looking forward to AJ’s next challenge, an appearance in our 2023 BELLATOR Lightweight World Grand Prix, which showcases the best 155-pounders in the world.”
The lightweight tournament has been openly discussed by Coker and various Bellator fighters in recent months, though details have yet to be officially announced. In the meantime, McKee, Bellator’s featherweight grand prix winner, now has a chance to repeat that feat, and potentially win another million dollars in prize money.