On Sept. 21 at Bellator 205, A.J. McKee is aiming to make another statement inside the cage. Not only will he be looking to stay unbeaten when he faces John Teixeira da Conceicao but he also expects to show the promotion that he is deserving of a shot at featherweight gold.
“I’m better than everyone in this division, and everyone in the sport,” McKee told Sherdog.com, “And my actions will continue to show that.”
His brashness is based in what has been a historic run inside the Bellator MMA cage. All 11 of his professional victories have been for the California-based organization, and they constitute the longest winning streak in the promotion’s history. He is also on pace to eclipse the record for most finishes, as well as the most wins and bouts at featherweight.
“I’m not 11-0 with eight finishes for no reason,” he said. “I’m out here breaking records [and] setting trends.”
It comes as no surprise that the 23-year-old feels he has earned a shot at current Bellator 145-pound kingpin Patricio Freire. “After this fight I want that title shot. I don’t feel I should wait anymore. Who is doing what I’ve done? No one has won 11 fights in a row,” said McKee.
The rising star is also frustrated over the fact that the next man in line to face Freire is Emmanuel Sanchez. The two were set to face each other in at Bellator 166 in 2016. However, Sanchez had to pull out of the fight and McKee instead faced replacement Ray Wood. Because of this, he feels the Roufusport fighter isn’t deserving of a championship opportunity.
Yet that upcoming bout annoys McKee far less than the possibility of a super-fight between Bellator bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell and Freire. Last month Caldwell made his promotional debut at featherweight, leading to speculation that a fight between the two champions could be on the horizon.
“F*ck that,” McKee said.
For McKee, winning the featherweight strap is not an issue of “if,” but “when,” so perhaps fighters like Sanchez and Caldwell might as well get their shots now while they can.
“I feel like all these guys in the division, they know once that belt touches my waist it’s not going anywhere. So they all better get that shot at the title before it touches my waist,” he proclaimed. “I’m here to take over, not to take part.”
However, before he can even think about championship fights he has business to attend to Friday at CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho. There, the California native will face the stiffest test of his career in Brazilian John “Macapa.” The Nova Uniao product has eight years and 15 more fights of experience than his young opponent.
McKee is not too concerned about Macapa’s experience, though. Wherever the fight goes, he expects to be the better man. He also would not mind getting to display some of his more underrated abilities.
“A lot of people don’t know how great my jiu-jitsu is because I haven’t had to showcase any of those skills yet,” McKee said.
To him, the bout will be another chance to entertain fans and pad his résumé as a serious title contender. “I’m looking forward to going out there and doing what I do best, and that’s putting on a show,” he said. “[Macapa] is a great win for me to have, but I’m looking for that title shot.”
Although he isn’t pleased about his place in the featherweight hierarchy, he does value the promotion placing him in a position to represent them as a main-eventer for the second time. “I always see myself as the main event,” said McKee. “I’m going to do whatever [Bellator] want me to do and represent them to the best of my abilities.”
McKee is hoping a win gets him what he desires most and he hasn’t pondered the possibilities outside of that. In the event he doesn’t face the 145-pound champion next, he will face whoever Bellator offers--and beat them.
“I don’t give a sh*t anymore. They can line-up and I’ll take them all out,” he says.
Don’t count James Gallagher as a possible opponent if he were to return to featherweight, however. Despite the rivalry between the two over the last couple of years, McKee has lost interest in a possible match-up. “That’s irrelevant. I blocked his ass on Instagram,” he quips.
McKee’s confidence borders on cockiness, as when he says “I am the future of this sport and I will get that belt, it’s just a matter of time,” but all he has known in his short career is success. If there are still non-believers within the promotion, he claims he is ready to prove it against the elite of the division, including the bantamweight “Wolf” in Caldwell or the “Pitbull” sitting atop the division.
“Throw me to the wolves, and the pitbulls. All these animals. I’m ready to do what I do,” said McKee.