After suffering his first loss since 2003 last January, Antonio McKee was looking forward to rebounding by defending his MFC lightweight championship against Drew Fickett in June, but an injury forced McKee from the bout.
After McKee dropped out of the event, it was announced Fickett would fight Hermes Franca for the vacated title – a belt McKee argued he still owned – but then with legal issues removing Franca from the match, Brian Cobb stepped in and eventually defeated Fickett in a non-title bout.
A year after he had last stepped into the MFC ring, it appeared as if McKee was going to get a chance to prove he is the undisputed lightweight champion at MFC 32, but after coming in seven pounds over the weight limit, he was stripped of the belt and the bout was changed to a non-title fight.
Controversies aside, according to McKee, when he does return to the MFC, we will see a different fighter in him.
“It took away what I do best. Having a slipped disc in my back, I could no longer take the shots I could take, and having the torn meniscus, I couldn’t have the angle technique that I had before,” he told MMAWeekly.com.
“It made me better because I had to revamp my game, and it had to happen pretty fast because I didn’t have very much of a choice. I’m pretty happy it happened, because I’ll be able to display a different style in this fight against Brian.”
While North American fans will have an opportunity to see McKee’s changes for the first time Friday night live on HDNet, he did manage to test things out this past August in a win over Jai Bradney at CFC 18 in Sidney, Australia.
“I got a chance to acknowledge the changes,” said McKee. “He stopped my shot each time, and I ended up using the cage to take him down. When I got him down I knew I didn’t have it in me to go three five-minute rounds, so I had to finish it in the first round.
“I went all out, and ground-and-pounded him into submission – and fortunately, he broke – which was a good thing because I was on my way out.”
McKee feels confident his ground skills will be able to neutralize Cobb’s, so his only concern going into their fight is not so much technical, but motivational.
“Brian’s a dangerous opponent for me because he’s not a trash-talking guy,” said McKee. “He’s a nice guy, and I respect nice guys. Me, I need someone to talk smack, get in my face and push me around a little bit.
“That’s what makes me go. It forces me to go out there and be an animal; which is probably the best way to go out there; especially if you’re a skilled technician and an animal. If he goes out there and plays the nice guy, it’s going to be a long night for us both.”
Following the disappointment of 2011, McKee was looking to start off this year with a fresh outlook. He will get the opportunity, to an extent, when he faces Cobb. But MFC officials confirmed to MMAWeekly.com that McKee would be released from the promotion following the fight.
“I just want to go out there, relax and enjoy the energy crowd… Then look down the road and see who’s next.”
(The interview with McKee was conducted prior to his failure to make wait. He was unavailable for a follow-up after the weigh-in.)