A.J. McKee, the people’s champion

Bellator 277 saw more than just A.J. McKee’s undefeated record fall apart. After losing to Patricio Pitbull in a rematch, McKee had to fight hard to keep his mental health in check.

As Bellator MMA prepared for its Bantamweight Global Grand Prix in 2019, numerous people in the business began to speculate that it could possess the finest current bantamweight boxer on the globe. McKee was a local star who had gone undefeated in his first 18 amateur bouts before being promoted in 2015. Pitbull, a two-division winner who had just stopped Michael Chandler in the featherweight category four bouts before, was knocked out in the first round, proving that the anticipation was warranted.

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Spike Carlyle gave McKee a battle for his dollars during their exciting 15-minute struggle at Bellator 286, and McKee, the previous welterweight winner, says he could have made the switch to a different class easier on himself in the lead-up to the bout.

McKee remarked of his welterweight debut, “It felt nice,” on The MMA Hour. In order to consistently have to go ability, I believe my body simply needs a little more time to adjust to the strength. The battle seemed to lack something, in my opinion, particularly in the cardiovascular department. There was an amazing amount of production, and I simply can’t even begin to process it. However, there are a few minor tweaks that I have to do.

McKee claims he weighed roughly 175 pounds on fight night, but is now closer to 180 pounds. To put that in perspective, he says he typically weighs about 160–165 pounds while competing as a featherweight, so this is an increase of around 15–20 pounds.

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INGLEWOOD, CA – JULY 31: AJ McKee (blue gloves) as he defeats Patricio Pitbull (red gloves) by first-round submission in their Featherweight World Title Main Event fight at The Forum on July 31, 2021, in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Once/Getty Images)

McKee has assured us that there is no need for alarm and that the problem was mostly one of nutrition and procedure.

McKee had projected four straight victories for the same fighter before the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix began. He was able to do this by thwarting Georgi Karakhanyan, Derek Campos, Darrion Caldwell, and Pitbull. Therefore, McKee, who desired a rematch with Pitbull at lightweight but was uninspired by a rematch at featherweight, believed that Pitbull owed it to him to make a declaration in their second meeting.

McKee is adamant about making lightweight his permanent weight class. The former featherweight champion knows the long-term effects of dropping to 145 pounds, having formerly weighed as much as 185. To finally end his feud with Pitbull over the featherweight division, McKee will make an exception.

Taking a southpaw position, AJ crossed across the Bellator ring. The southpaw, who stood just 5 feet 10 inches tall, sprang into range, blocked with his right hand, and unleashed a ferocious left kick. A strong blow to the right side of the head knocked Freire out. Just seconds into their championship bout in July of last year, McKee delivered a punching combination that sent Freire stumbling toward the cage. McKee jumped with joy and raised his arms.

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On the other hand, Freire was not through. The battle was still going on when he stood up. McKee steadied himself, leaned down, caught Freire in a guillotine choke from the standing position, and followed up with a knee to the body. Referee Mike Beltran halted the bout in less than two minutes when he noticed Freire’s right arm go limp from the compression.

Even though these are ambitious targets, AJ has complete faith in McKee’s ability to achieve them. Except maybe for Antonio. Even if it isn’t in the next contract, he is certain that his kid will become the UFC champion. It was “the truth that I didn’t want to live with,” and he never wanted AJ to battle. Now that it has finally come to pass, though, you can be certain that Antonio will do all in his ability to ensure that his kid becomes an even larger celebrity than he ever dreamed of becoming.


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