Antonio McKee file photo: Rob King | Sherdog.com
Gambling with his career may have paid Antonio McKee great dividends.
Criticized for a record heavy on decisions and a “boring” fighting style that relied heavily on his wrestling, McKee pledged that he’d retire from the sport if he notched his 19th judges’ nod against Luciano Azevedo at Maximum Fighting Championships 26 last Friday in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Instead, the MFC lightweight champion stopped Azevedo in the first round after opening the Brazilian with elbows. It marked McKee’s first stoppage in six opponents and three-and-a half years.
It appears the 40-year-old McKee’s dicey campaign has gained him considerable attention, which he spoke about on the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Savage Dog” show on Wednesday.
“Well, I’m there already, brother,” said McKee, when asked if the UFC was his ultimate goal before he retired. “I’ve got to be quiet about it right now. Just wait until they tell you that, but I’m there.”
McKee said his inability to finish fights in the past came from a deep internal struggle within himself.
“After that fight was over, I felt bad for that guy,” he said. “I split that dude’s head open. I just changed his face for the rest of his life. That gash was so deep and so long that he had to receive staples -- not stitches, staples. I don’t want to be that monster. That’s the monster that came from the streets and when I told you I had to go back to the ghetto and grab a part of me that I tried to get rid of I brought him back and that’s scary to me because I don’t think nobody can deal with that individual.”
McKee, who has wins over UFC veterans Carlo Prater and Derrick Noble and hasn’t lost since 2003, said he went to church last Sunday following the fight and cried with his daughter for forgiveness.
“I don’t get off on that, so I prayed and asked God for the strength to start submitting people because I don’t want to hurt people like that,” said McKee.
He also called for the removal of grounded elbow strikes, a tactic that has been omitted from some promotions’ rule sets because of the damage it can cause fighters.
McKee pointed to his stoppage performance as a way to silence critics, including HDNet’s Bas Rutten and Guy Mezger, who regularly commentate MFC events on the network.
“This wasn’t about the fans,” said McKee, who teaches out of the Bodyshop Fitness gym in Lakewood, Calif. “This was to shut up Bas Rutten, Guy Mezger. This was to shut everybody up. I can do what I want to do. I control the top game. I don’t get submitted. You haven’t ever seen me fight out of a submission.
“I’m the baddest n----er on the planet at 155 pounds and right after that, look what happened? I got a call from the UFC who said, ‘We got a four-fight deal.’”
When asked about his contract status with the MFC, McKee said Friday’s bout was the final fight of his deal with the Canadian-based organization.
“I did my obligation of three fights and like I told (MFC President) Mark Pavelich, like I told Kurt Otto of the IFL: you will have no one to beat me,” said McKee.
MFC Media Relations Director Scott Zerr wouldn’t comment on the lightweight champion’s contract status.
“There is nothing official on McKee going to the UFC,” wrote Zerr in an email to Sherdog.com late Wednesday. “In fact we have spoken to Antonio and he has denied making any statement that he has signed with the UFC.”
If McKee did eventually grace the Octagon, at 40 years of age, he’d be one of the older fighters in recent memory to make his debut with the promotion.
“Genetically, I can do it when I’m 45,” said McKee. “I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I’m not on steroids. I take care of myself. I can fight till I’m 60 if I want to.”
Extra passionate and zealous at times during his interview on Wednesday, McKee said he’d figured out how to finally propel his career forward.
“I’m going to make everybody a believer now because I now understand that if it’s violence and blood which you want, I’m going to give it to you the best I can,” he said.