More and more siblings are entering the fight game, but A.J. McKee and Antonio McKee will always hold the rare distinction of being one of the very few father-son duos to ever compete on the same fight card.
A.J. (16-0) and Antonio (30-6-2) both got the chance to compete back at Bellator 228 in September. Both father and son scored finishes. A.J. caught up with Bloody Elbow and reflected on the historic moment.
“It was surreal. It was a dream come true. That was one of his dreams since I was a child. It’s been one of my dreams since I was a child. Having all those names on the red wall at the Inglewood Forum... For him to be able to compete at 50-years-old, it’s phenomenal,” A.J. shared. “It was a good way to show him going out and me coming in... It was a good way to introduce the McKee name to fans who aren’t hardcore fans.”
For the uninitiated, Antonio is a veteran of UFC, Dream, WFA and IFL. He has exchanged strikes with Karo Parisyan, Toby Imada, Ray Cooper, Jacob Volkmann, Shinya Aoki and even Mike Dolce. A.J. gave some insight into the origins of his dad’s ‘Mandingo’ nickname, which unfortunately has been twisted perversely over the years.
“I don’t know if you’ve heard his old school theme song, but it’s not really appropriate for that nickname. Being called ‘Mandingo.’ The Mandingo Warriors are from Africa. Growing up we had a wrestling team called the warriors. My dad was the Mandingo. He was the head-honcho, the head coach,” A.J. said. “He’s very into his culture and where he comes from. A lot of African Americans don’t know a lot about their history and culture and where they come from. He’s a history freak and that was his fight name. He came from the Mandingo tribe... We’re currently changing his nickname to the ‘Godfather.’”
Fighting is in A.J.’s genes. He was crawling on the road to MMA before he could even walk.
“I think as a child I always knew what I wanted to do. Seeing all the fighters come into the gym: Rampage [Jackson], Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell. Literally I’ve seen everybody you can think of come into the gym,” he said. “My dad actually didn’t want me to fight. We were fighting before amateur was event around. So when amateur came around, they were like, ‘okay, you gotta be 18.’ I’ve been throwing punches and dropping kids on their head since we were young.”
McKee will next fight former Bellator champion Darrion Caldwell in the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix Quarterfinals.