Those behind the curtain at Bellator MMA believe they have a future champion on their hands in A.J. McKee, an undefeated prospect with world-class skills and the pedigree to match.
“The Mercenary” will take his turn as a headliner for the first time when he faces British Association of Mixed Martial Arts and Cage Warriors Fighting Championship veteran Brian Moore in the Bellator 187 main event this Friday at 3Arena in Dublin. McKee operates out of the Team Bodyshop camp in his native California, where he trains under the watchful eye of his father -- former Maximum Fighting Championship titleholder Antonio McKee. He has been brought along cautiously in a cutthroat featherweight division that includes Patricio Freire, Pat Curran, Emmanuel Sanchez, Daniel Straus and Daniel Weichel, affording him the opportunity to grow into his considerable talents. McKee last competed at Bellator 182 on Aug. 25, when he claimed a three-round unanimous decision from journeyman Blair Tugman. It marked just the second time in nine professional outings that he had been forced to go the distance.
As McKee prepares to face SBG Ireland’s Moore in hostile territory, here are some of the numbers that have come to define him:
0: Appearances outside of Bellator. McKee has spent his entire nine-fight career with the organization, starting with his pro debut on April 10, 2015.
0.637: Cumulative winning percentage of McKee’s nine opponents: Tugman (10-7), Marcos Bonilla (4-5), James Barnes (9-2), J.T. Donaldson (2-3), Danilo Belluardo (6-3), Cody Walker (8-7), Ray Wood (7-5), Brandon Phillips (6-3) and Dominic Mazzotta (13-2).
1: Loss as an amateur. McKee was on the receiving end of an eight-second knockout from Christian Espinosa at a Knockout Promotions show in June 2013. He was 18 at the time.
2: Countries in which he has fought as a professional mixed martial artist. They are the United States and Italy. Ireland will be the third.
5: Opponents stopped inside one round. McKee victimized Mazzotta in 1:15, Barnes in 1:42, Bonilla in 2:08, Belluardo in 2:44 and Donaldson in 3:19.
6: Finishes on his resume. He has put away four opponents by knockout or technical knockout and two more by submission.
9: Consecutive victories under the Bellator banner, tying McKee with Ben Askren and Michael Chandler for the organization’s all-time record.
22: Years of age. When McKee was born in Long Beach, California, on April 7, 1995, “Bad Boys” was the No. 1 movie at the domestic box office, followed by “A Goofy Movie,” “Tommy Boy,” “Don Juan de Marco” and “Outbreak.”