Bellator 171: "Guillard vs. Njokuani" comes to Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane, Kans., tomorrow night (Fri., Jan. 27, 2017), featuring a 180-pound Catchweight main event between "Young Assassin" Melvin Guillard against Chidi "Bang Bang" Njokuani in Spike TV's main event.
The mixed martial arts (MMA) league put a promising line-up in front of the fans in Mulvane to support the headliner, including a surprisingly quick return for a fighter who was just in action in Thackerville last month. In fact, A.J. McKee (6-0) may have a little explaining to do because after dominating his replacement opponent Ray Wood in a lopsided decision, McKee seemed to think he may have broken his thumb in the fight.
Since he's obviously cleared to compete this week, MMAmania.com spoke with the undefeated Featherweight about his opponent this weekend, Brandon Phillips (6-2), and his decision to take another fight so fast ... injury or no injury.
"It's gonna be a fun fight, you know? I'm looking forward to getting back in there and getting back to doing what I do best and that's getting these first round knockouts and finishes."
In case you assume that McKee is just talking out of his ass, you need only look at his first four fights in a row starting at Bellator 136 in Irvine. None of those bouts lasted longer than 3:19.
"I think it's just the fighting warrior in me that I'm making a statement, you know? I kinda started losing motivation the last fight so I didn't really have it there, but I'm back on the grind you know. Life, you know, you go through things, and you've just gotta always keep your head and continue fighting and pushing forward."
McKee may have lost that motivation because he feels that Emmanuel Sanchez pulled out of Bellator 166 on purpose, but he can also see why a fighter would think twice about facing him.
"Well, it'll happen sooner or later, you know? These guys -- I understand why they pull out. I wouldn't want to fight myself either, you know? 6-0, up-and-comer, he's 12-2 whatever these guys records are. It doesn't make sense for them to fight me. They don't benefit anything from beating me and they've got everything to lose. They can run they just can't hide. Sign that contract and then you're gonna have to fight sooner or later."
McKee attributes a lot of his success as a fighter to learning from his father, Antonio McKee, among others.
"Our styles are similar, you know? Now I see why my dad used to just take everybody down and ground-and-pound them. It's an easy fight -- easy payday -- and it's no toll on your body, you know? You can sit there and beat the guy up and it's pretty easy."
Perhaps that's the reason despite going to a decision for the first time in his career, McKee seemed pretty happy with his performance at Bellator 166.
"After three, five-minute rounds, I got up and like I told my dad I was like, 'Hey -- I could fight two more fives like that.' He was like, 'Yeah, it's easy right?' I was like, 'Yeah!' So it was just good to know I can take somebody down and ground and pound and relax while beating them up."
"Fighting" and "relaxing" aren't normally two things that go together, but McKee has a natural confidence and the record so far to back it up. Still, McKee knows that fight fans don't pay for tickets to see you "relax" in the cage.
"It's all about the entertainment just as much as it is about the fighting you know? So you just gotta (meet) that supply and demand. You give the people what they want, the people give Bellator what they want, and Bellator'll make me happy you know? They'll give me what I want."
And since McKee is known for being as entertaining after the fights as he is during the fights, he's got a little bit of a story about why he has so much swagger.
"I'm just very different, man. I'm very unique. I'm a very different type of person. If I go out with all my friends, I'll be the guy that'll buy everybody in the club a rose -- just cause. 'Who is that? He just bought everybody a rose!' Then everybody tries to come hang out with us and I'm like, 'Alright -- time to get out of here.' Before I did that nobody cared all of a sudden everybody wants to hang out -- it's time to go."
As fascinating as that makes McKee as an individual, it's all about the fight tomorrow night. And McKee knows fans are not showing up unless he takes Phillips seriously and delivers in that cage.
"He's good on the inside, he's a smaller opponent, so he's got to close that distance and try to get to me. And yeah, I'm pretty sure he thinks I'm gonna try to take him down and wrestle. He'll be in for a pretty rude awakening when I start kicking him in his face and punching him."
Don't miss Bellator 171 tomorrow night on Spike TV to see if McKee can give Phillips a "rude awakening" at what he's in for against an undefeated phenom. Complete audio of our interview is embedded in the video player above and complete Bellator MMA coverage can be found right here on fight night.