A.J. McKee is a prodigal son of the mixed martial arts game.
“The Mercenary” started his M.M.A. career at the top, debuting as a professional in Bellator M.M.A. in 2015. It began a four-fight first-round win streak that extended to a permanent win streak, eventually pitting him against former champions, each of which he finished.
The son of Antonio “Mandingo” McKee, former Maximum Fighting Championship lightweight champ, the younger McKee is looking to cement his family’s name this weekend when he faces reigning Bellator champ-champ, Patricio “Pitbull” Freire.
The two come head-to-head this Saturday live on SHOWTIME.
The fight is the culmination of the Bellator Featherweight Tournament that yields the featherweight title and a $1 million prize. It also allows the younger McKee to right what he considers as many injustices to his father’s career.
He did not become a champion in a well-known promotion. In turn, he did not become rich from fighting. In contrast, others in his peer group like Chuck Liddell did, and A.J. feels that his father was perpetually overlooked despite his athletic abilities.
Now A.J. has a chance to change that in one night this Saturday at the legendary Los Angeles Forum.
Ironically, McKee comes from a gym, Team Body Shop, where other athletes are children of famous fighting fathers. Both Kevin “Baby Slice” Ferguson, Jr., son of legendary street fighter turned M.M.A. fighter-boxer “Kimbo Slice,” and the son of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson are training partners for McKee.
With A.J.’s father, Coach McKee, at the helm as a motivator, spiritual lead, and mentor, a new wave of young fighters comes up under the self-proclaimed young G.O.A.T.
Patricio Freire is a two-division world champion for Bellator and is currently on a 7-fight win streak. All roads point to him as the tournament winner this Saturday, but that experience leans up against McKee’s undefeated mentality and reality.
With a win over Freire, McKee would prove to be the most successful Bellator prospect turned champion and possibly the most remarkable example of a mixed martial arts career ever.
He started at the top and never lost; cement with a title and tournament is a trifecta that has never been accomplished before.