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A.J. McKee admits he was partying before Bellator 160, but chalks it up to learning experience


Perhaps it wasn’t the first-round finish he’s used to, but prospect A.J. McKee made the most of his Bellator 160 platform on Aug. 26 by taking out Cody Walker. This time he had to do it in the second round, via a guillotine choke. And part of the reason it took him a bit to get started was McKee had trained specifically for the smaller Henry Corrales, who ended up being replaced by Walker on short notice.

It was that and, well, the 21-year old was out late the night before his fight. Was he really partying in Hollywood, as he said in his post-fight interview?

"Kind of, yeah," McKee said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. "I went to the club. We had Wiz Khalifa there, so…I went to see Wiz Khalifa. You can’t pass up Wiz Khalifa."

McKee, who lives and trains in Long Beach, California with his father Antonio McKee’s BodyShop Fitness Team, works at the club in question. He said he didn’t get to sleep the night before his encounter with Walker at the Honda Center in Anaheim until around "one or two" o’clock in the morning.

That might have accounted for some of his sluggishness in a fighter he won fairly handily anyway. Now 5-0 as a professional fighter, with all of his fights falling under the Bellator banner, McKee said it was part of his learning experience.

"Definitely [it was a mistake], I think just being young you just kind of look past things and you want to just enjoy life a little," he said. "I don’t know, I felt weird, where I want to be, where I want to go…there’s little things I’ve got to leave alone. Being young is probably one of them. That’s a sacrifice I’ve got to make to get to where I want to be."

McKee is one of the blue chip prospects coming up in Bellator’s featherweight division. His father, Antonio, fought for 15 years as a grinder who competed in the MFC, the UFC, WSOF and DREAM. Twenty-six of his 37 professional bouts were decisions. With his son, who carries a nickname of "Mercenary," it’s all about the flash and dash.

A.J. has finished all five of the opponents he’s faced thus far, four of them in the first round. He said that’s how he wants to make his legacy.

"Yeah, it’s kind of an entertainment thing for me," he told Ariel Helwani. "You make the fans happy, the fans make Bellator happy, and Bellator makes me happy. So it’s kind of a supply and demand thing, you know?"

McKee, who has proven to be a bit of a showman in and out the cage — doing back flips off the cage and wearing a tuxedo jacket in his post-fight interview — has been plenty audacious early on. He quelled his "beef" with Pitbull Freire on national TV, but also said he was gunning for the champion himself, Daniel Straus.

Asked if that was what he wanted next, or if he’d rather take it a bit slow and get a couple more fights under his belt, McKee opted for the latter.

"I feel like I’ve got one or two more fights just to kind of tighten up things, especially after this last fight," he said. "It was a good win, but I feel like I kind of overlooked Cody Walker. Not overlooked him, but I didn’t expect what I expected of him. He’s probably one of the biggest 45s anyone’s ever seen with a 78-inch reach, 6-foot-2. That’s a huge 45-pounder. I’m already a pretty big 45-pounder, so me having to change my entire game up, just being focused to fight Corrales and being ready for Corrales. I went in there kind of getting ready to fight Corrales, staying long and staying on the outside, but I don’t know.

"A week before the fight the whole game plan just changed. And my dad’s like, hey, you’ve always wanted to go get it. He’s like, this is your fight, you’ve got to be inside this fight, so go get it. And, I just went in there and kind of let those hands go and went to go get it."

McKee said he would like to get back into the cage as soon as possible, in particular on the Nov. 19 event that Bellator has scheduled for San Jose that features a lightweight title fight between Benson Henderson and Michael Chandler.

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