After picking up three straight wins to start his pro career in 2015, featherweight up and comer AJ McKee has kept things rolling in 2016 with back-to-back wins in his first two fights of this year.
After getting himself in the mix last year, McKee feels 2016 has been a great year for establishing his own name as a fighter, coming out of the shadow of his MMA vet father Antonio.
“This was my year of growth, kind of. Just to grow and kind of get my name out there,” McKee told MMAWeekly.com. “Not just following my father’s career, but kind of making my own legacy and my own name for my own person.
“Every fight I feel I’m a different fighter and I’m modifying something different. That’s why it’s hard for someone to train for me, because every fight I’m doing something different, my techniques and style are different. It’s hard to adapt to something that’s always changing.”
McKee (5-0) will look to duplicate his three-win success from last year, when he takes on late replacement Ray Wood (7-2) in a 145-pound co-main event at Bellator 166 on Friday in Thackerville, Okla.
Though Wood is the more experienced of the two fighters, McKee doesn’t believe the experience difference on paper will have much of an impact on the fight.
“It definitely factors in and plays a certain part in it, but when it comes to me, I’m a different breed,” McKee said. “If you watch my first fight, I was so composed in there that it looked like I had already had 10 fights.
“Everyone calls me a prospect, but in my eyes I’m not a prospect, I’m a young G.O.A.T. – I’m going to be the greatest of all time. I’m going to continue to live up to it and make sure that people recognize it and respect it sooner or later.”
Now that he’s begun to make a name for himself, McKee has lofty goals for 2017, and becoming a record setting fighter in the process.
“In April is my 22nd birthday, so beginning in 2017 I’d like that belt around my waist before my birthday; beating Jon Jones as the youngest champ at 21,” said McKee. “I have to take it one fight at a time, with Emmanuel Sanchez being another step in this climbing of the mountain to the top.
“Hopefully I can get (Daniel) Straus after that, and if he’s still out hurt, I feel that belt should be up for grabs, and they should start throwing fights in there and let that belt move around. Because once McKee gets that belt, it’s going on lockdown and it’s not going anywhere.”