SAN JOSE, Calif. – A.J. McKee is tasting defeat for the first time, and it tastes to him like it’s time for change.
At a Bellator 277 post-fight news conference at SAP Center, McKee (18-1 MMA, 18-1 BMMA) addressed a packed room of reporters for the first time as a fighter without a 0 in his loss column. McKee lost a unanimous decision to rival Patricio Freire (33-5 MMA, 21-5 BMMA), something he didn’t agree with as evident by immediate facial expressions.
McKee brought his Snickers bar to the table as he always does. A bottle of champagne was popped, but not shaken. The shades were on, almost as if nothing had even happened moments prior.
“One setback – it ain’t nothing to me,” McKee told reporters, including MMA Junkie. “Obviously, being the best in the world (and) knowing I’m the best in the world, I’ve always felt you’ve got to beat the champ. I don’t think he did that. I mean, we saw the way I beat him (in 2021). I don’t know, man. I don’t know. It is what it is. My dad has always told me – he says, ‘Don’t leave it to the judges.’ At the end of the day, the ball is in my court. That’s my mistake, my mess up.”
A trilogy fight may seem like a layup to some, but McKee laid out some possible roadblocks to that happening. Over and over again, McKee repeated similar lines: He’s done at featherweight.
“At the end of the day, it’s back to the drawing board,” McKee said. “Sh*t, I want my rematch at 155 then. What’s up? Like I’ve been telling you, I’m done with 145 unless we’re getting some superfights going. I’ve been at 145 for years, and years, and years, and years, cutting a lot of weight. I don’t think people (really) see what goes into it. It’s a lot of work, not just for myself but my team, for my family. It’s rough seeing me get down to 145. … (At) 155, why not? Faster, stronger, bigger – yeah. I’m going to unleash that beast, monster style, baby. … I’m done with 145.”
Bellator’s featherweight division is considered one of its deepest, while lightweight is a division in need of contenders. Despite the lack of depth, McKee sees matchups that interest him.
“The big brother is the little brother, but also the better brother,” McKee said in reference of Patricio Freire’s brother Patricky, Bellator’s 155-pound champion. “It’s a different fight. Every fight is different. Styles make fights. I think there’s a lot of action at 155. You’ve got some great guys up there, some great names, a lot of names I’d love to have on my radar. Let’s see: There’s Benson (Henderson), (who’s) always been a big name. You’ve got Khabib’s cousin (Usman Nurmagomedov). 155 is a nice division.”