*Update: Per Bellator press release, Emmanuel Sanchez has been forced to withdraw injured from his upcoming bout at Bellator 166. McKee will now face Ray Wood (7-2 MMA, 1-1 BMMA).*
21-year-old A.J. McKee takes on Emmanuel Sanchez in the co-main event of Bellator 166: Dantas vs. Warren 2 next Friday, December 2nd. McKee is looking to improve on his 6-0 professional MMA record which, thus far, has seen him finish all 6 of his opponents inside the distance. If he wants to keep up that streak, however, he’ll have to hand the 26-year-old Sanchez the first stoppage loss of his career.
“He’s bringing a great record and he’s fought a lot of good names,” A.J. says, “I’ve been analysing my weight class and I’ve kind of broke it down; Straus is the current champ, Pitbull is out, I would throw Daniel Weichel at number 2, Pat Curran at number 3, Georgi Karakhanyan at 4 and Emmanuel Sanchez at number 5. Sanchez has already fought number 2 and number 3, and they both went to decisions. Going out there and finishing him in the first or second round will make a pretty loud statement in the division, doing something none of these basic fighters in the division could do.
“This fight will finish in the second round,” he adds, “The second round, 3 minutes in at the latest. I’m not looking to let this fight go to the scorecards. I’ve already let one fighter get 30 seconds out of the first round, and Emanuel Sanchez definitely has a tank on him, but I feel he’s another basic fighter.”
The Bellator fighter, son of UFC vet Antonio McKee, certainly believes in his ability. He may be young, but don’t call him a prospect.
“Everyone’s talking about prospects,” A.J. says, “I don’t see myself as a prospect, I see myself as the young GOAT. I want to be the greatest of all time, and so far with my record being flawless, I feel I am the GOAT and I just need to continue to prove myself. I’m not the young prospect they think I am. I don’t feel like I’m a prospect at all. They’re trying to gauge me and see what level they can fill me in at, every fight I’m stepping up a level and they’re all ending the same, and that’s with me having my hand raised with another finish. I don’t feel any prospect in my weight class is on my level, so for them to classify me as a prospect, I kind of take that as an insult. I’m going to continue to work as hard as I can until I get to the top, and once I get to the top I’m going to work 10 times harder.
“That belt, that’s all I want,” he adds, “I want that 145 lb belt then I’ll move up to 155 lbs and take my second belt. Being at 145 lbs is a decent weight cut, it takes some time. If I was able to go up to 55, I’d be a monster with another level of power and ferocity for people to deal with. Right now, my mind is set on that belt. With Straus being out, if he can’t fight it needs to be vacated and they need to make an interim belt or something.”
It’s a level of confidence that is clearly built at Team BodyShop, where, training under his father, he is joined by the likes of Joey Davis, ‘Baby Slice’ and former Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion Emanuel Newton.
“Some people take confidence as cockiness,” says McKee, “Some people take it as ‘Oh he’s an A-hole,’ but at the end of the day if you’re not confident in your craft, and you’re not confident that you’ve perfected your craft and you know that it’s gonna work, then what’s the point in trying to become a champion? That’s the overall achievement; to become a champion. Most guys, they kind of doubt themselves sometimes. When I go in that cage, I know that when that door locks, nothing is going to stop me from trying to rip that dude’s head off. I guarantee that anybody that fights me is never going to want to fight me a second time.
“I’ll spar with Emanuel Newton,” he adds, “And Emanuel Newton knows every time he goes with me he’s going to be in for a fight. I’ll go with Cheick Kongo, it doesn’t matter. Whoever you put me in front of, it’s going to be a fight and everyone in the gym knows that. We have every angle and every aspect in our gym covered, with everyone covering a different style. We have ‘Baby Slice’ who’s a hard-hitter, Joey Davis who’s a 4 time national champion, you’ve got Jesse Juarez, Emanuel Newton with his awkward style which is sort of where I got my style from, I kinda do my own Feng Shui on it. We’ve literally got anything and everything in our gym.”
‘Baby Slice,’ aka Kevin Ferguson Jr, lost his professional debut at Bellator 165. McKee, who also made his pro debut under the Bellator banner, and Slice are very close, and it seems like everyone in the team are keeping the result in perspective.
“He lives with me, that’s like one of my new brothers,” A.J. says, “He’s alright, it’s his first fight you know, coming off one amateur fight straight into a pro fight. That was an amazing fight too, he beat the brakes off that dude the entire first and second round. I was extremely proud, it’s just little things in the game, there’s a couple of things he needs to tighten up on, but it was an amazing fight and I couldn’t be more proud of him. He went out there and put on a show, win or lose, he put on a show and the people loved it. They still cheered him out of the stadium at the end of the day. That being his first fight, fighting in a huge arena like that, there’s a lot of pressure on you, especially having to live up to his father’s legacy and his father’s name. I’m extremely proud of him.”
Bellator announced at that event that they’d be visiting McKee’s home state of California in February for the return of Fedor Emelianenko. A.J. wants to fight on that card, though realises he may need to be booked elsewhere if he’s after a main event slot.
“He’s [Fedor] probably gonna headline and be the main event, but I would love to be on the card,” he says, “If it’s a title fight though, then I need to be the main event. I feel every time I fight I steal the show so why not make me a main event? I’m moving up, I went from main card to co-main event so hopefully my next fight I’ll be the main event because I’m going to continue to steal the show.
“I’m loving that they’re bringing the younger guys onto the main card and having the older generation fighters, the bigger names who have a following, headline so the younger guys under them are getting their names out there. If they have a spectacular performance like I’ve been having, the people are going to start to recognise them. That makes the organisation happy and the organisation will make you happy. It’s just as much entertainment and business as it is fighting.”
Prospect or not, he’s one of the most highly-touted young fighters in MMA right now and certainly has the confidence in his ability. I believe Bellator have more promising young fighters than any other MMA promotion right now, and I’m excited to see their journeys over the next few years.
A.J. McKee takes on
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Exclusive: Jalin Turner vs Noah Tillis set for Bellator LA in January
Bellator LA: Douglas Lima vs Rory MacDonald, has just had another entertaining fight added as two talented prospects Jalin Turner and Noah Tillis are set to meet in a lightweight bout. Sources close to the fight confirmed the news to MMA Latest earlier this morning.
Jalin “The Tarantula” Turner makes his return to the Bellator cage for the first time since January 2017, where he defeated Gabriel Green by knockout, in an exciting fight that only lasted 36 seconds. Since the fight, Turner has gone 2-1 where he defeated Paradise Vaovasa by KO, at Tachi PF 31, before dropping his next fight to Richard LeRoy by TKO, at CFX 8. Turner bounced back from the loss by beating Vytautas Sadauskas by submission, at KOTC: Never Quit, back in September.
Noah Tillis is currently coming off of a 9-second submission victory against Jeff Carson, at Gladiator Challenge: American Pride, back in July. The “Submission Magician” has amassed a professional record of 3-2 with three victories coming by submission, DQ, and a TKO due to injury. His two losses coming by way of TKO and decision.
It is unclear where the fight will be featured, but it is assumed it will take place on the undercard. The potential brawl represents a stiff challenge for either man, as well as an opportunity to make some noise in an always deep lightweight division.
The only other fight currently announced on the card is the main event between current Bellator welterweight champion Douglas Lima and former UFC title challenger, Rory MacDonald. Bellator LA: Lima vs MacDonald is set to take place on Saturday, January 20th, in Los Angeles, Calfornia, at the Forum.
Anthony “PrettyBoy” Taylor wants to knockout Trey Branch then fight Brian Moore in Bellator on St. Patricks Day
Going from postlim fights in Bellator to a co-main event and then a main card fight after with such little professional experience isn’t something you’d hear of very often in the slightest. In this case Anthony “PrettyBoy” Taylor is the exception, who in only his third professional fight went to Ireland as part of the co-main event for a fight with James Gallagher. Taylor became well known to many in the build-up to that fight for being so outspoken and quite an entertainer, something he carries with him to the cage.
Anthony Taylor now has himself a fight lined up in a regional show near his home in California at California Fighting Championships. This will be his first time fighting back in America since May 2016. His last two bouts were in Europe as part of Bellator’s expansion into Europe. Following two losses he now hopes to get back in the win column in front of a home crowd. Taking this fight as a tune off fight Anthony is confident he won’t be touched by his opponent Trey Branch.
“Well, I’m taking this fight because Bellator said I’ll be fighting next year for overseas and it will be a good tune off fight for me. I think of trey like any other fighter. Just a guy who’s not going to touch me nor beat me.”
His opponent Trey Branch is jumping up from flyweight for this fight, Anthony believes he’s going to dominate his opponent and knock him out with ease. Now having 3 career losses coming via submission, he is not worried about his ground game, guaranteeing it was improved from training with some of the top fighters in Bellator.
“I believe I’m going to overpower him and KO him. He’s coming up from 125lb to fight me which I stated to the world on Bellator that I’m the strongest 45er in the world!! And as far as my ground game, it’d be covered and it’s great. Thanks to AJ McKee, Baby Slice, Joey Davis and Aaron Pico. My ground game is great and up there to the level, as there’s”
Looking ahead to next year when he competes in Bellator again, Taylor has his eyes set on a big fight in a return to Irish soil.
“Well Bellator loves me and I proved them that I belong there. I haven’t been told when I was fighting but I hope it’s back in Ireland, and maybe on St. Patricks day and hopefully I’ll fight Brian Moore because me and him been wanting to fight the longest.”
As a training partner for AJ McKee, Taylor was very pleased with how the fight went down, claiming it was a simple enough fight for his teammate that apparently didn’t train much for the fight. Suffering a loss on the initial trip to the emerald isle, “PrettyBoy” wants to come back and take home a win next time around.
“Oh man it was an easy fight for AJ, he only trained 2 weeks for that Brian Moore fight” he laughs “but absolutely it would be a great show if I was also on the show me and James alone still holds the record of views internationally and I’m looking to come back and taking what’s mines which is that W”
The win against Brian Moore could now potentially line up a fight between McKee and James Gallagher, fight fans have long sought after. Having fought against James and training with McKee on the regular Taylor isn’t convinced that Gallagher is ready for the AJ just yet. He also had some words about SBG fighters who were calling out Baby Slice.
“James is not ready for AJ. And people calling out slice since he’s new in the game. Why are sbg guys not calling out Joey Davis?? They are all talk and think that they’re better than everyone.”
With a win on Saturday, Anthony Taylor thinks it will kick him off to a series of consecutive wins that could ultimately land him in a fight with Emmanuel Sanchez.
“Yes it will start off (Saturday) and I believe it will set me up tremendously. I’m only getting better and I plan on winning fights in Bellator and then taking out Emanuel Sanchez. I do not like him, I hate him”
“I don’t like his style and he’s always hating on my teammates so I want his head” he added
Away from the fight scene, Anthony is pleased with the life that he’s got set up for himself with his newfound love since joining Bellator as he now aims to break into the movie industry too.
“Man it’s been great I now have a wonderful woman in my life so I’m happy. I’m acting too, trying to get into the movies industry and God has blessed me which so much love”
You can follow Anthony Taylor on all his social media accounts to keep an eye out for all his upcoming fight information and results.
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