If you have listened to an interview with lightweight fighter Antonio McKee, you know that the 40-year old has a solid handle on braggadocio.
“I feel like I’m the Muhammad Ali of MMA,” he recently told Sherdog.com. “I feel like I’m the Don King of MMA. I feel like I’m the Tupac Shakur of MMA. I’m the mouth, the talent, the brains, and I’m also the business side. Where does that put me? That puts me as one of the all-time greatest black mixed martial arts fighters.”
He is also a savvy businessman and has admitted on more than one occasion on purposely making grandiose and controversial statements in order to drum up interest in himself, á la Chael Sonnen. He has also proven clever in conserving himself over his fighting career; many have criticized McKee’s safety-first approach in the past, but “Mandingo” is quick to admit that he simply wasn’t willing to endure bodily harm for a small paycheck and that the money would have to be right before he started laying it all on the line.
This is how he found himself finishing his last two opponents. McKee spoke with UFC matchmaker Joe Silva and asked him what the UFC wanted to see him accomplish before they would sign him. Silva’s answer was, unsurprisingly, “Finishes.”
“I knew what the UFC was looking for previously, and I wasn’t, at the time, willing to put that out there for the amount of money being paid,” McKee said. “It wasn’t worth it to me, as a young man, to go out and put on a monkey show for two or three thousand dollars. I would rather win a decision and walk away with not a scratch on me. But with these incentives, absolutely, it changes things. I’m going to try to knock [Jacob] Volkmann’s head off his shoulders.”
McKee earned his shot in the UFC after scoring to stoppage victories in a row and will now attempt to prove himself on the biggest MMA stage the world has to offer, against tough NCAA Division-1 wrestler Jacob Volkmann. McKee told Sherdog that this run in the UFC will be for all the marbles and that he will hang up his gloves if he finds himself taking the kind of damage that wears on a fighter’s mind in later years.
“Some fighters I feel sorry for, but I take my hat off to them. At 50, 60 years old, I still want to be a dad and play basketball. I don’t want to be walking around here, shaking my head, not knowing who I am and my memory’s shot,” McKee said. “The moment I get a good ass whipping, I’m done. I just want to know if I’m the best fighter in the world or if I’m a bunch of hot air.”
McKee will take on Volkmann this January 1st at UFC 125: Resolution at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.