A.J. McKee is a homegrown talent for Bellator MMA, having fought each of his 21 professional bouts under the promotion. In a press release, Bellator just announced that they have re-signed their former featherweight champion with a multi-fight, multi-deal contract.
McKee was someone who was brought along in a way that prospect should be. He took increasingly difficult opponents each time out, which seemed to serve him well on his rise through the ranks — and the end result of that speaks for itself.
McKee won the Bellator’s Featherweight World Grand Prix and a $1 million payday, the promotion’s featherweight title, with his only loss ever being a razor thin decision to Patricio “Pitbull” Freire. Apart from being a perfect example of how you properly groom a prospect, offering million-dollar paydays is great example of how to keep your talent in-house once they’ve matured into champions.
Bellator President Scott Coker, had this to say about his homegrown talent in McKee, “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.”
McKee is coming off of a unanimous decision win over Roberto de Souza that took place at the Bellator vs. RIZIN New Year’s Eve card. AJ was representing Bellator in Japan, with Souza being RIZIN’s champion. This was McKee’s second match in a row at 155-pounds, which seems like it will be his permanent home in 2023.
“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,” Coker said. “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.”
Bellator sure did hit a home run with scouting McKee early. It’s clear that AJ is one of the very best talents in MMA today, so of course Bellator will do what it takes to keep him around.
McKee already holds numerous records for the promotion, like most consecutive victories (18), most submission wins at featherweight (7), and most stoppages at featherweight (13).
Regardless of where you have McKee on your pound-for-pound lists, being just 27-years-old means that he has the opportunity to radically raise the bar even further.