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A.J. McKee tired of hearing James Gallagher ‘run his mouth,’ focuses on Bellator 182


Undefeated second-generation standout A.J. McKee has his next foe in his sights.

But McKee, who meets Blair Tugman in a main card bout at Bellator 182 on Friday night in Verona, N.Y., still has a score to settle with brash young Irishman James Gallagher.

Gallagher took a main event fight with Jeremiah Labiano on Nov. 10 at Bellator Dublin, then proclaimed McKee wanted no part of the fight.

McKee, not surprisingly, sees it differently.

“Man, all that guy does is run his mouth,” McKee told MMAFighting. “He’s got a nerve calling me out.”

Gallagher, who beat Chinzo Machida at Bellator 180 at Madison Square Garden to improve to 7-0, is fighting Labiano in a featherweight bout, but has claimed he wants to make runs at both the bantamweight and featherweight titles.

McKee, for his part, sees Gallagher as a knockoff of his SBG teammate, Conor McGregor.

“He’s not the original and he can’t do like the original,” McKee said. “Tell you what, I have no problem going over there and showing him up in front of his family and friends. I’ll be that guy. But he says he wants to go bantamweight too, so who knows? Sounds like he’s going to run scared out of the division, so I’m not holding my breath waiting for him.”

In the meantime, McKee, the son of longtime respected veteran Antonio McKee, looks to continue building momentum in the featherweight division. The 22-year old native of Long Beach, Calif. is entering the third year of his pro career, with all eight of his fights coming under the Bellator banner.

The most recent one was particularly memorable, a head-kick knockout of Dominic Mazzotta in just 75 seconds which went viral. McKee, who had eight amateur bouts before going pro, showed form in that fight which hinted he’s really close to being ready for higher-ranked competition.

“It was good to be able to show off what I can do,” McKee said. “I don’t feel like I have to go out there and do something like that again, but it was good to show that I’m not only a wrestler or not only this or that, but that I can put together the complete package.

Tugman, McKee’s opponent on Friday, isn’t the best-known fighter on the Bellator roster. But he’s won three straight fights and five out of six in Bellator, with his most recent victory a rear-naked choke finish of Tom English with just six seconds remaining in their Bellator 176 matchup.

“I’m not looking past this guy,” McKee said. “I know he’s had more fights than me and I know that he’s coming into this fight ready. I respect him.”

But McKee set a goal for himself to become the sport’s youngest champion, and he hears the clock ticking.

“I believe in myself,” McKee said. “I’ve got big goals in this sport. I said I wanted to be the youngest world champion of all-time. I’m 22. Jon Jones was 23 [when he defeated Shogun Rua to win his first UFC light heavyweight title]. I gotta get on with this and Blair’s in my way.”

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