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A.J. McKee pleased with 155 debut despite missteps: ‘I didn’t cut weight properly’

A.J. McKee’s first fight at lightweight was a success, but it wasn’t without its problems.

Not only did Spike Carlyle give McKee a run for his money for the duration of their entertaining 15-minute scrap at Bellator 286, but the former featherweight champion admits he could have made the transition to a new division easier on himself in the lead-up to the fight.

“It felt good,” McKee said on The MMA Hour, appraising his lightweight debut. “I think my body just needs a bit more time to get acclimated to the strength so I can have consistent go power. I felt there were a couple of little things in that fight, like, cardio-wise. The output was just insane, so I can’t really— it was kind of a lot. But there were a couple of little things I need to make adjustments to.

“I didn’t cut weight properly either, so that was kind of a factor as well. Little adjustments. Every fight you learn something, and I was just really taking in those couple of little key things.”

McKee estimates his current walk-around weight is near 180 pounds and that he was about 175 pounds on fight night. That’s up from the 160-165 pounds he estimates he would normally be at when stepping into the cage as a featherweight.

As for what exactly went wrong, McKee said it is nothing to be concerned about and that it was mostly a dietary and procedural issue.

“Nothing, it’s just that dieting’s key for mixed martial arts,” McKee said. “There’s just a couple of little things. I got down to those last couple of pounds and it wasn’t easy. I didn’t expect it to be easy, but with the right diet, I mean, I made ‘45. I can still make ‘45. So with that being said, you’ve just got to make sure everything is right and dialed in. This was just kind of more like a freelance weight cut.

On the topic of his diet, McKee showed off a freezer full of steak and ribs, key ingredients to building his new lightweight physique. He plans to manage that better going forward.

“Once I got the call that I was able to move up to ‘55, it was like, OK, you need to get big now,” McKee said. “You need to pack on weight. You need to have high protein, so a lot of steak was the go-to. Steak, chicken, I got ahi tuna. I got lobster. Surf and turf is my jam right there. You get a nice ribeye with a couple of pieces of lobster, dip it in the buster, a little vanilla truffle oil.”

Competing for Bellator since his pro debut in 2015, McKee started 18-0 competing as a featherweight, including a grand prix tournament triumph over Patricio Pitbull that earned him a championship belt and a $1 million prize.

McKee dropped the rematch to Pitbull and is eager to rematch his Brazilian rival in a featherweight title fight. However, until that moment comes, he’s focused on his lightweight reinvention.

“I’m just going to continue to eat and get bigger unless they call me with this ‘45-pound fight,” McKee said. “But if they call me with a ‘45-pound fight, I need to know this, because it’s going to take me a bit of dieting, a lot of running, and dialing back in because I’m currently sitting at 180 already. I need to know, we need to know.”

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