Bellator 182: “Koreshkov vs. Njokuani” comes to Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, N.Y., this Friday night (Aug. 25, 2017), featuring a former champion Andrey Koreshkov against the exciting Chidi Njokuani, who is unbeaten in nine straight fights dating back to Aug. 2013.
Another man on the Spike TV-televised card can boast an unbeaten record at least that impressive.
“Mercenary” A.J. McKee has won every single fight he’s been in over the same time span, while Njokuani’s streak includes one fight that ended in a “no contest.” McKee has six finishes in eight Featherweight bouts, including a sterling first round stoppage his last time out.
McKee has made it known in no uncertain terms that his bonafide credentials entitle him to a world title shot, while Bellator MMA seems content to make him earn it with increasingly tougher competition. Next on the list is Blair Tugman, 10-6 and winner of three straight in Bellator. Indeed, another win would put the undefeated McKee right where he needs to be to challenge division champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, but fellow contender James Gallagher (7-0) may feel he’s right there for it, too.
Nevertheless, MMAmania.com recently spoke with McKee about his next test at Bellator 182 and whether another spectacular finish is in the cards in Verona.
“It’s an entertainment thing just as much as it is a sport, you know? You gotta make the people happy, the people will make the organization happy, and the organization will make you happy. That’s supply and demand.”
Naturally, McKee’s view is that if he supplies a spectacular finish, fight fans will demand that he be moved up the ladder to face Freire — or someone right beneath him.
“At least top five, you know? I go out there and get a nice finish (and) for sure the fans will start wanting to see me get those top fives and get that title shot in the near future.”
Tugman only has four submissions in his 10 wins, the other six coming by decision, along with four of his six losses. In other words, he could ruin McKee’s big “sports entertainment” plans with a drawn out war.
“It’s a fight so you can’t look past anyone ever. All it takes is one punch, but for me I’m not really worried about what he’s gonna do, I’m kinda focused on things that I want to go out there that I want to try (to do).”
A fighter with an undefeated record who is already being discussed as a title contender could easily rest on his laurels. McKee, on the other hand, wants to show improvement in every fight.
“(I’ll show) a little nin-jitsu and some crafty stand-up techniques. Tune in August 25th on Spike TV and don’t miss it and you’ll see!”
“I’m just trying to get him to sign a contract, you know? He’s a little disrespectful. Where I come up, where I grew up, you disrespect someone you get disrespected right back. I’m waiting for my opportunity to disrespect him on national television, not verbally, but physically.”
And McKee says he’d be more than happy to fill his dance card with a fight in Dublin later this year if given the opportunity to fight Gallagher in November.
“I’ll fill it in anywhere, any time, any place. Just give me the contract and I’ll sign it!”
As much as he’d like to beat a little respect into Gallagher, McKee is still keeping his eyes on the two-time and current champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire. There’s no one he wants to face more.
“Pitbull, you know? He’s the man with that belt again so that’s my goal. Anybody else is just a stepping stone on the way — on the way to getting that belt around my waist.”
That naturally leads one to wonder if McKee views former champion Daniel Straus in that light — a stone for him to step over just to get to Freire.
“If that’s the fight they offer then that’s the fight I take to get there so he would be a stepping stone as well. He’s no longer that man, that’s one of my buddies, but hey, this is business just as much as it is friendships.”
As a man who teaches unofficial fight economics, I asked “Mercenary” if he feels the demand for Bellator 182 could be affected by the supply of “Mayweather vs. McGregor” the next night.
“I hope it brings more views, you know? I hope that since it is free, it is on Spike, and it is the day before one of the biggest fights of our time right now, man I hope it brings more views. More views, more people I get to entertain, and more shows for me to put on.”
McKee couldn’t resist the chance to use McGregor’s boxing match to take another jab at James Gallagher being the “little brother” of the Straight Blast team.
“Well you know ‘big brother’ has to … gotta make sure ‘big brother’ is focused! He’s probably holding his water bottle for him and making sure he stays nice and hydrated.”
When McKee isn’t taking shots at Gallagher or calling out current and former champions, he’s staying busy training at the Body Shop in California. And he’s got nothing but love for his team.
“Man, (Kimbo) Slice (Jr.) is looking good, he’s getting his hands right! He had a great fight his last fight. Joey Davis, he’s been in there putting in that work. He’ll be fighting at (Bellator 182) as well with me so check him out on the prelims. Aaron Pico’s in there as well. He’s in there putting in that work man. I haven’t met anyone that works as hard as me and him. That boy works his ass off!”
That’s one more economics lesson from Professor McKee — hard work pays dividends.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Koreshkov vs. Njokuani” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.
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