When it comes to his bout this past May versus Pat Curran at Bellator 221, featherweight AJ McKee admits that he changed up his game for the fight, but it ended up paying off with a unanimous decision victory.
Knowing Curran’s history of being able to dominate opponents with his strikes, McKee fought less aggressively than he had in the past but wills still able to control the fight and get the win.
“I went out there and showcased my skills of being cautious,” McKee told MMAWeekly.com. “That was the first time I fought overly cautious and smart with no room for error.
“That was the most defensive that I fought. I went out there and make it look easy. Pat is probably one of Bellator’s best strikers. He’s dropped and sat down everybody in the division, so to go out there and not even get touched by him was phenomenal.”
With the win McKee (14-0) earned a shot at a million dollars as part of Bellator’s Featherweight Grand Prix, where he’ll face Georgi Karakhanyan (28-9-1) in the first round on Saturday in Inglewood, California, at Bellator 228.
“With this million dollars I could walk away from this sport and never fight again, so with that being said, I’ve just been out there punching and kicking people, now it’s time to pull out (all the stops) and start hurting people,” said McKee.
“It’s about to change up. I’m going to bring things into this cage that people aren’t really going to what to do (against) or what to expect. This first round of the tournament, Georgi Karakhanyan is going to be made an example of.”
In addition to his bout, McKee will also see his father, Antonio, return to active competition for the first time in five years earlier in the night, making for an especially important evening for both athletes.
“My dad is something different,” McKee said. “He’s like ahead of his time. He was eight years undefeated. He was one of the pioneers and greats in the sport; especially in the wrestling world; there’s been nobody who can stop his takedown.
“Tons of people, everyone you can think of, the come to our gym and they can’t stop his takedown at 155 pounds, it’s phenomenal.”
For McKee, fighting in the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix is not just about winning the money at the end, but also maintaining his own undefeated legacy.
“With my first round pick, everybody knows Georgi is a brawler; Georgi is going to come in there and try to come for my neck,” said McKee. “Everyone is watching and trying to see how I react, if I get hurt, they want to be that first loss on my record. Everyone’s after my zero.
“There’s seven zeros; six on my check and one on my record; and all these other people are just going after six zeros, so I feel like I’ve got a lot more to fight for.”