A.J. McKee (born April 7, 1995) is an American mixed martial artist competing in Bellator’s featherweight division and was the 2021 Featherweight Champion. On October 4, 2022, A. J. made his lightweight debut in the co-main event of Bellator 286 and won the fight with Spike Carlyle (former UFC Lightweight) in a unanimous decision, derailing Carlyle’s five-fight winning streak.
A.J. McKee, “The Mercenary,” is ranked #1 in Bellator’s men’s pound-for-pound rankings and #2 in Bellator’s Featherweight rankings.
Mercenary Fight Highlights
McKee faced Georgi Karakhanyan in the opening round of the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix on September 28, 2019, at Bellator 228. He claimed victory by knocking out his opponent in just eight seconds, and he advanced to the next round in the quarterfinals.
On December 21, 2019, in the quarterfinals, Bellator 236 McKee fought Derek Campos and won the bout by a third-round submission to advance in the tournament.
The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the semifinals; however, they did take place on November 19, 2020, at Bellator 253, and McKee faced Darrion Caldwell. McKee won the fight by a neck crank submission in round one and advanced to the Featherweight Grand Prix Final.
In the Grand Prix Final, Bellator 263, on July 31, 2021, McKee faced Bellator Featherweight Champion Patrício Freire, AKA Pitbull. Early in round one, McKee knocked down Pitbull, then secured a guillotine choke, winning the bout by submission. This victory for McKee pronounced him the Grand Prix title, Bellator Featherweight Champion, and claim to a one-million-dollar prize. This championship fight was the last on McKee’s contract, but the win automatically extended his contract for one year or three fights.
The next step for The Mercenary is on a straight path to advancing his MMA career. His goals are to become the best and highest-paid fighter in the world in his weight class. The Mercenary’s fight legacy originates from his father, Antonio “Mandingo” McKee Sr., a champion MMA fighter with a record of thirty wins, six losses, and two draws. McKee Jr’s upbringing by a champion dad who survived and triumphed despite a hard life of brutality and traumatic events focused on teaching his son discipline, purpose, honesty, sensible life choices, and goal achievement. McKee Sr. began training his son in wrestling when he was a young boy, and McKee Jr. maintained an obsession for fighting as his dad became his mentor, coach, manager, accountant, and best friend. As father and sons go, A.J.’s relationship with Antonio Sr. is a bond nothing can break.
Outside the Cage
McKee supports his community by being a sponsor, active instructor, and trainer at Fight for Kids in Lakewood, California. This non-profit organization was established in 2006 by A.J.’s father for inner-city, underprivileged youth, providing them opportunities to participate and compete in athletic programs, specifically wrestling. A.J. includes mentoring, physical training, and support for the kids that depend on Fight for Kids to achieve the success they dream of in all areas of life. His support includes the funds to purchase athletic equipment, clothing, and transportation. A.J. is happy knowing that his efforts and positive influence are helping these at-risk youth build character, discipline, physical fitness, and self-esteem.
Accomplished, outgoing, fun, talented, and hardworking, A.J. McKee is becoming a highly recognized influencer both in and out of the cage. He believes the “Key” that unlocks success is realizing you have access to your power to live a life that goes beyond your dreams that serves humanity and yourself with honor.