Undefeated featherweight A.J.McKee has long been considered a blue-chip prospect, but the 22-year-old admittedhe’s been coasting a bit as of late. But thanks to a certain Irish counterpart, “Mercenary” is again ready to shine.“I was looking forward to fighting that little Irish schmuck, James Gallagher, but he doesn’t want to fight,” McKee told MMAjunkie. “He’s going on to fight ‘Battle of the Bums’ vs. the supposedly legend (Chinzo) Machida. Like, ‘OK, his brother is a legend. He’s not a legend.’ To me it’s ‘Battle of the Bums.’ Hopefully I can get that bum after this fight. “That’s what honestly put the fire back in me. This dude thinks he’s just like the next Conor McGregor. I’m like, ‘Bro, you’re Poo-poo Cheddar. You’re trash.'” McKee (7-0 MMA, 7-0 BMMA) faces Dominic Mazzotta (12-1 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) at Friday’s Bellator 178 event, which airs on Spike from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Meanwhile, Gallagher (6-0 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) meets Machida (5-2 MMA, 2-0 BMMA) at June’s Bellator 180 event, which takes place on June 24 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Following a Bellator 173 win, Gallagher made a very public callout of McKee, who saidthe challenge certainly caught his attention and he’s willing to oblige.
HUGE statement win from @StrabanimalMMA! Who does he want next?? #Bellator173 pic.twitter.com/slRFq9S9wK— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) February 25, 2017
“I’d say it was a step back, but hey, whatever; this is something kind of personal,” McKee said. “At this point, I’m willing to take a step backward to go knock out somebody. We’re both supposed to be hot prospects. We’re both supposed to be contenders. We both need to fight and get this little personal beef out of the way. “He says it’s not personal, but yet you’re calling me a (expletive) on national television. Sign the contract. If I called somebody a (expletive) on national television, I’m not fighting no one else until I fight this dude that’s a (expletive). For me, it’s like, ‘Who’s really the (expletive)?'” McKee, of course, needs to focus on the task at hand, but he insisted that’s exactly what he’s done. Gallagher’s comments angered him, and that brought about a razor-sharp focus he admitted wasn’t in place in, say, his January decision win over Brandon Phillips. “I just got bored, man,” McKee said. “I’ve been doing it my whole life, so being in the gym is just like, ‘Oh, another day at the gym.’ It’s not like, ‘Let’s go work out. Yeah! We’re going to the gym. We’re a bout to go spar.’ I was just like, ‘Oh, today’s sparring day.’ I was just kind of saying getting comfortable getting a little too comfortable. “I wasn’t going for the kill. I was just like, ‘Oh, hey, here’s a hook. Here’s a cross.’ I wasn’t like, ‘Let’s sit him down with this cross and this hook real quick.’ I was just kind of walking through the motions.”Under the tutelage of his father, 37-fight veteran Antonio McKee, A.J. said things are different now. With real goals in mind, the dedication has become laser focused. “These last couple of fights, I’ve just been going at it,” McKee said. “I don’t know. I’ve been not being myself, really just getting tired of being in there and then just kind of coming out and going in there and just doing what I have to do. Now, I’m back on the grind and just really, really putting that 100-percent effort back in on the two- and three-a-day workouts. I’m getting back on my grind. “My dad’s like, ‘Hey, if you’re not going to do this, then why even mess around with it, you know? Give it 110 percent for a couple of years and then walk away if that’s what you want to do.’ So I’m just back on the grind, man, and kind of getting back to getting those knockouts and those finishes and really entertaining the fans and giving them what they want.” A matchup between two talented prospects, especially two of the homegrown variety, could certainly prove eye-catching for Bellator officials. McKee saidhe’ll take care of his end of the bargain on Friday and will be waiting to see if Gallagher can do the same. “If I go in there and do what I’m supposed to do, I shouldn’t have any problems,” McKee said. “At the end of the day, it’s all up to me to just go out there and do what I was built and what’s instilled in me to do, and that’s put on a show.”For more on Bellator 178 and Bellator 180, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.