Antonio McKee has been known to fight a methodical (safe) style due to small paydays, but now that there's more money involved, he plans on shedding his reputation of decisions at Friday's MFC 22 against Carlo Prater in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
"You're going to get a standup war in this fight," said McKee, who has been undefeated since a 2003 decision loss to Karo Parisyan. "If I lose this fight it's because I stood up and I tried to bang and I got caught."
In this exclusive interview with FanHouse, McKee explains his safe fighting style in the past that sacrificed entertainment, and why he believes there is no lightweight out there that can beat him – including UFC champ BJ Penn.
How's training camp been going for your first MFC title defense?
Everything's good, I'm getting beat up everyday by Brett Cooper, Jesse Juarez, Jason High, all these great fighters that come out of the Body Shop. They've been really enjoying training camp cause they've been kicking my butt.
What are your thoughts on Carlo Prater?
Carlo Prater is a tough guy but I'm working with a little too much on my arsenal right now. I'm a prime time in my life, with where I'm at in the fight game. I'm matured, I've suffered a lot of bumps and bruises and faced a lot of critics and politics ... and I don't think he'll be able to deal with what I'm about to bring.
I don't see this fight going past the second or third round. I don't think he has the conditioning that I have and I just don't think there is situation where he can win either way, standing up or on the ground, so I just need to be in shape and be ready to fight.
Your prediction is that the fight won't go past the third round, but there has also been a lot said about the majority of your fights ending in decision. What have you done to improve your chances this time around at finishing your opponent?
For me personally, I really don't give a s--t about the fans. This is a sport, I don't look at it as entertainment, and if I was looking at it as entertainment, I would go to acting school. I'm a very cagey fighter and I fight to win. This particular time I'm at a weight class where guys are weighing the same as me. At 155 pounds, which is more my weight class, I just don't worry about getting hit or getting knocked out.
All I've been doing in this training, is that I got a boxing coach and I'm a very fast learned, very athletic, so once I learn the basic combinations, I was able to utilize my athleticism to take it from there. I think what's going to be a key factor here is me being in there and out of there and not being able to be hit but able to hit. I haven't done any ground for this fight. I haven't trained any takedowns which I know that's what they trained cause if you study any tape of me, one of the things you constantly see is me slamming people on their head.
So I think he's going to come out gun-shy with his takedown and I'm going to knock him around a little bit and by that time -- if I haven't finished the fight already – he's in la-la land and then I'll take him down and ground and pound him or get back to his feet and finish him there. But either way, I'm looking to finish this fight, I'm not looking to go five-five.
I'm at the end of my career and I have nothing to lose and even if I lose, people got to respect that McKee came to fight.
How did you connect with the MFC?
I took Emmanuel Newton to fight and I met Mark Pavelich, who is a guy a lot like me. He says what he sees. He doesn't pull any punches. So I told him what was going on with me, and he said, "You really that good?" and I go "I'm better than that," it's just I'm not making any money.
I see so many young fighters go out here and entertain and put on a show for these promoters and get their teeth knocked out, get their nose busted, get their eyes split open. And they're 22, 23 years old – these are babies. Hey, I'm 40 years old and the only way you're going to get me to stand up and get my eyes cut open, my nose broken, my jaw broken and my teeth knock out is if you pay me. You have to pay me. $2,000 is not enough for me to go out and put on a show and take chances of being cut open.
He came at me with a great opportunity and that was to be a champion at 155, which is something that I've always wanted, knew that if I got into a big organization that I definitely would win. And after I won the title, we started talking about some money and this time my sponsors came through and I said, "You know what, I love you guys for believing in me. You're going to get a standup war in this fight." If I lose this fight it's because I stood up and I tried to bang and I got caught.
You've been undefeated for the past six-and-a-half years yet only the diehards know who you are. Why haven't we seen you in the UFC or Strikeforce?
You got to remember that I'm also a very good coach. I've worked with "Rampage," I work with some of the high-end profile fighters. They all know who I am. Unfortunately when you're doing what I'm doing: I own a gym, I'm promoting "Knockout Promotions." For a lot of local companies it doesn't make sense for them to use me as their posterboy, as their star when they're paying me peanuts and crumbs and I'm also a promoter doing shows.
I understand the UFC. They don't want competition six, seven years from now. Look at Golden Boy Promotions. Look at what they're doing. Now [Oscar De La Hoya] is pretty much running boxing. And he's a former boxer who decided he didn't want to box no more and he wanted to make some real money and promote. So here I am just a man looking for opportunities to better my success and myself in my career in fighting.
Dana White, they all know me. Who do they got to beat me? BJ Penn? C'mon dude. At 155 I'd kick BJ's [butt] and everybody knows it that knows me. They'd go, "he would tool BJ." Why? Cause BJ he ain't got cardio. You see him lose every one of his fights. Why? Because he gets tired. McKee doesn't get tired.
That's a really big statement. Are we ever going to see you in the Octagon so you can work towards that in front of a more mainstream audience?
You know what? I think the UFC is very smart. They are going to let the hype get built, and they're going to let the people talk and then they'll make that fight happen. The fight fans in America do not want to see Antonio vs. BJ. The fight celebrities, stars want to see McKee and BJ. It's all about marketing. I'm not marketing myself to mainstream fans right now. I'm trying to be the best I can be and have the best record, and the worst comes to worst retire as the MFC lightweight champion and the only fighter to go undefeated seven to eight years – up a weight class.
I don't know who you have to beat me at 155. Who? Clay Guida? Sean Sherk? I had a fight with Sean Sherk and he turned it down. Because my strength is their strength but I'm better at it. I'm the best wrestler in mixed martial arts right now. There's only one guy that's running neck-to-neck with me and that's Mo Lawal. And Mo would tell you the same thing, "McKee is probably the best wrestler in the game [of MMA]." Pound for pound? 155 pounds? I'm not trying to be cocky. I'm just telling it as it is.
What's the biggest reward for you in being a fighter? The winning, the belt, the money...
Right now I'm fighting against me. The reward for me is that I did it. At 40 years old, I did it. At 40 years old, I'm in just as good as a shape as a 29-year-old, 22-year-old, not even, [I'm in] better shape. But more important than anything is finishing that fight and we both walk out of there.