A.J. McKee

The Mercenary


Loses belt and undefeated record
April 18, 2022
McKee lost his Bellator Featherweight Championship to Patricio Freire via unanimous decision (46-49, 47-48, 47-48) at Bellator 277 on Friday in San Jose.
McKee appeared to receive some questionable advice from his corner entering Round 5, who told him he should have banked all four rounds. That turned out not to be the case, and while it was indeed a close fight, the majority of media members appeared to score this one for "Pitbull." McKee took a much more patient approach here than in their first fight, where he landed a head kick before rushing in to secure the fight-ending choke in Round 1. While McKee often encouraged a firefight in the center, Freire stayed patient and racked up plenty of strikes from distance. A good case can be made McKee won the last two rounds, but it wasn't enough in a close fight like this. McKee called for a rematch at lightweight after the fight, though "Pitbull" didn't seem particularly interested. McKee seems to think his future is at 155, however, and he likely isn't far away from title-implicating fights in that division.
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Wins Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix
August 1, 2021
McKee defeated Patricio Freire via technical submission (guillotine choke) at 1:57 of Round 1 at Bellator 263 on Saturday at The Forum in Los Angeles.
The two took about a minute or so to feel each other out after the opening bell, but it was McKee who landed the first big offensive move of the fight. He attempted a head kick and caught Freire clean with his shin, which wobbled the younger Pitbull brother. In a follow-up blitz that ensued, McKee caught him with a clean uppercut that sent him to the canvas, and he immediately put both arms up in celebration. The problem was that referee Mike Beltran hadn't called off the fight yet. McKee quickly corrected the mistake, clamping on for a guillotine that was in tight. Pitbull refused to tap, but the bout was called off after his arm went limp. McKee is now the new champion at 145 pounds after sweeping the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix. He'll also get a $1 million check as the result of his efforts Saturday night. McKee is only 26 years old and a perfect 18-0-0 in mixed martial arts. The sky is the limit.
Takes yet another step forward
December 15, 2018
McKee defeated Daniel Crawford via submission (anaconda choke) at 3:19 of Round 1 at Bellator 212 on Friday in Honolulu.
McKee came into this fight as a huge favorite, and he took care of business. He scored a takedown early in the fight and went to work from the top position. Crawford tried to scramble, but he ended up stuck in an anaconda choke. McKee has looked spectacular against this level of competition recently. However, the path forward is somewhat confused. Bellator clearly seems to be grooming him for contendership, but he shares a team with prospect Aaron Pico who also seems to be a future contender. One of the fighters is likely to move up to lightweight, but the timetable is currently unknown.
Decks John Macapa in the main event of Bellator 205 and improves to 12-0 as a professional
September 21, 2018
McKee defeated John Macapa via KO (punch) at 1:09 of Round 1 at Bellator 205 on Friday in Boise, Idaho.
McKee began his career with a series of quick finishes. Recently, he has had longer and closer fights. That trend ended in this fight. He came out looking to work at distance. Macapa rushed him and tried to close the distance. McKee threw a wild combination in close quarters. The first strike missed, but the second left hook caught Macapa and put him out cold. He could have kept throwing punches, but he stopped himself as Macapa was out. McKee had been set to face former champion Pat Curran at this event before he was forced out with an injury. Look for Bellator to give him another tough veteran for his next fight to see if they can get him into the title picture.
Controls distance with his striking against Justin Lawrence at Bellator 197
April 13, 2018
McKee defeated Justin Lawrence via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) at Bellator 197 on Friday in St. Charles, Mo.
McKee entered this fighting riding a ten-fight winning streak. In his previous fight, McKee had to overcome some adversity before coming back to win via submission in the third. It is clear from watching McKee, that he wants to be a quick and accurate striker. While that has not always been the case in his Bellator fights, he showed that here against Lawrence. He continually landed with his lead jab and followed with combinations. He still ate a few counters, but his striking defense continued to improve fight to fight. This was an all-around impressive striking performance from McKee, who will likely face a top featherweight contender in his next fight.
Survives adversity and scores third-round submission in the main event of Bellator 187
November 10, 2017
McKee defeated Brian Moore via submission (rear-naked choke) at 0:42 of Round 3 at Bellator 187 on Friday in Dublin, Ireland.
McKee had to deal with serious adversity for perhaps the first time in his career. Towards the end of the first round, landed some extremely damaging blows on McKee and stuffed a takedown. The blows appeared to deplete McKee's gas tank, and he spent the rest of the round and most of the second trying to avoid huge shots from Moore. In the third round, McKee came out recovered and dropped More with a combination. From there, he jumped on his opponent's back and finished the fight with a rear-naked choke. McKee improves to 10-0 as a professional with all his fights coming in the Bellator cage. It will be interesting to see who the promotion matches him with next. While he pulled out the victory, he certainly looked mortal against Moore.