BELLATOR MMA announced the re-signing of No. 3-ranked pound-for-pound competitor, No. 8-ranked lightweight contender, and former BELLATOR Featherweight Champion, AJ “Mercenary” McKee (20-1) to an exclusive, multi-year, multi-fight, contract.
“Our top priority has always been to cultivate talent from the ground up, and with AJ [McKee] I can proudly say we have witnessed this young man blossom into a bonafide superstar in the BELLATOR cage,” said President Scott Coker. “It’s also our priority to retain top talent, and with AJ entering the prime of his career, it was important to make sure he continued representing the BELLATOR brand, much like he did recently in Japan, for the foreseeable future. I am looking forward to AJ’s next challenge, an appearance in our 2023 BELLATOR Lightweight World Grand Prix, which showcases the best 155-pounders in the world.”
McKee, 27, returns to BELLATOR as one of its finest homegrown talents and a veritable face of the promotion. The former BELLATOR Featherweight World Grand Prix tournament champion most recently represented the organization against reigning RIZIN Fighting Federation champion Roberto “Satoshi” de Souza in a thrilling unanimous decision victory to headline BELLATOR’s successful sweep on the historic New Year’s Eve BELLATOR vs. RIZIN event at the Saitama Super Arena in Japan. McKee will now be featured as one of the eight entrants to the 2023 BELLATOR Lightweight World Grand Prix, where he will vie for a championship in a second weight class and a second one-million-dollar grand prize.
The son of MMA pioneer Antonio McKee, McKee has established himself in the world of MMA with a stellar 20-1 record in his 21 fights with the promotion, McKee boasts a blistering 65% stoppage rate replete with six knockouts and seven submission victories. Included on McKee’s illustrious résumé are victories over Patricio Pitbull, de Souza, Darrion Caldwell, Pat Curran, and Georgi Karakhanyan.
He holds BELLATOR records for most consecutive victories (18), submission wins at featherweight (7), and stoppages at featherweight (13). He is tied for first in promotional record books for total finishes (13) and second for featherweight knockouts (6). In 2019, ESPN named McKee MMA’s top fighter under 25 and he followed that up in 2020 with the consensus “Submission of the Year” for his first-round neck crank, better known to many as the “McKee-o-tine” of Darrion Caldwell at BELLATOR 253.