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AJ McKee: Bellator has ‘nothing left for me at featherweight,’ need to ‘make it worth my while to stay’

A.J. McKee just became the Bellator featherweight champion, but his days fighting at 145 pounds are already numbered.

After starting his career with a perfect 17-0 record, McKee needed less than two minutes to vanquish arguably the greatest Bellator fighter of all time in Patricio Pitbull. A head kick followed by a guillotine choke overwhelmed Pitbull before he was ever able to mount any kind of offense, and McKee followed up on a promise to dispatch the Brazilian in record time.

“I knew it was going to be a left kick,” McKee said when speaking to MMA Fighting following his win. “I didn’t know whether it was going to be to the body or to the head, but once I got in there, I was able to read him a little bit, kind of figure out where he was going. He was worried about the left hand so he dropped his right hand, I kind of read that. I came up top with the head kick, but initially I thought it was going to be a body kick, cause usually he keeps his guard really high. But he dropped that hand to set up his right hand and over the top came the head kick.

“I had him rocked with the kick and once he was rocked with the kick, I threw it was a hook-uppercut and the uppercut was on the money. He went down like a sack of potatoes and I got hyped. I heard everybody screaming and I saw him go down and I knew it was over with. He started to come back to a little bit and the ref didn’t stop it so that’s kind of where I messed up a little bit. You gotta stay on it until the ref pulls you off. I just got back on him, went to my old faithful, that guillotine.”

Once the fight was over, McKee embraced Pitbull, and the rivals seemingly put the bad blood between them to bed, though it’s entirely possible that will get ignited again in the future.

With designs on becoming a two-division champion, which would mean a rematch with Pitbull at 155 pounds, McKee likes the idea of that as his next fight rather than just facing any other featherweight Bellator could throw at him.

“I’d like to move up,” McKee said. “Obviously within Bellator, there’s nothing left for me in the 145-pound division. I don’t know, maybe we get some superfights, make it worth my while to stay here at 145 pounds. Not just having fun. The million dollars was a reason to stay at 145 pounds but after that, I’m undefeated, let’s not look back. Let’s keep moving forward, and that’s what I’m looking forward to doing.

“We’ve got to sit down, go to Bellator, go to the drawing board and see what to do and how to take things from there.”

On Aug. 20, Adam Borics will face off with Jay Jay Wilson in a fight Bellator has deemed a No. 1 contender’s bout in the featherweight division. But the eventual winner of that fight doesn’t seem to interest McKee all that much.

Considering he’s spent his entire career competing in Bellator, McKee knows all of the featherweights now clamoring for a shot at him had the same opportunity in the past but now he’s ready to call the shots as champion.

That’s why a rematch with Pitbull for his Bellator lightweight title is much more appealing to McKee.

“I’ve had 18 fights in that organization in that division – I mean, who’s next?” McKee said. “I don’t really care. I’ve already beat the best. I’d like to beat the best again. Maybe he needs some time to kick back, relax, he said he wants some time off. I don’t mind. We can give him that time off, and we’ll see where things go from there.”

Since McKee was part of the Bellator featherweight grand prix, he’s had a busy couple of years. But he’s not anxious about taking too much time off. That said, the 26-year-old champion is more than ready to offer Pitbull an immediate rematch whenever he’s ready so long as the Bellator lightweight title is on the line.

“Definitely, run it back,” McKee said about what is ideally next for him. “For everybody who thought it may have been a fluke, I got lucky or something, we can do it again. I know he wants that get back. He’s a great champ. He’s held those reins for a long time, so he’s gotta do some self-reflecting himself. We’ll see him soon.

“I know at the end of the day, he’s a fighter. He lives to fight another day, and he’s looking forward to getting that get back.”

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