After a string of finishes in his first four bouts, featherweight A.J. McKee Jr. had two straight decisions before getting things back on track with a first round TKO of Dominic Mozzotta at Bellator 178 in April.
“I would say my first couple decisions were a little rough around the edges,” McKee told MMAWeekly.com. “But getting back into the gym, getting back serious and locking and down and seeing what’s ahead, and locking down and seeing what’s ahead has put it all in perspective.
“My last fight shows that. It shows what me being focused and me locking down on everything is capable of doing. It was just a great feeling to go out there and put on a great show and put on a nice highlight reel finish.”
Over the course of his first couple years as a pro, McKee feels like he’s made effort every time he fights to bring something new to the table; the credit for which he gives to his father Antonio, a 15-year veteran of the sport with nearly 40 fights under his own belt.
“You can’t just say I fight like this or fight like that, every fight I’m coming out and showing something new, a new skillset, and you never know what you’re going to get,” said McKee.
“My father was the originator of this. He’s the originator of my style. He’s got all the glory. He gets all the props. He gets all the credit. Me, it’s just making sure that our last name gets the respect and legacy it deserves in this sport.”
At Bellator 182 on August 25 in Verona, New York, McKee (6-0) will look to build another finishing streak when he takes on Blair Tugman (10-6) in a main card 145-pound bout.
“I know he’s a grinder,” McKee said of Tugman. “I’m pretty sure he’s not going to want to stand up with me. We’ve worked a lot of takedown defense, but even if he does take me down, the submissions are there.
“For me it’s going to be a fun fight. I’m going to work my hands, work on my feet, and if he gets the takedown, work off my back, work my submissions or cut him up with some elbows on my way back up to my feet.”
With a very clear timeframe of when he’d like to win his first major MMA championship, McKee is looking to get out of his fight with Tugman unscathed and continue his march towards his goal.
“I want to get that belt around my waist before April of 2018 and I want to be around 11-0 for that,” said McKee. “Of course, get me in there a couple more times by the end of this year and get some more highlight reels.”