A.J. McKee is staying with Bellator.
Bellator officials on Tuesday confirmed to MMA Fighting a new multi-fight agreement with McKee, heading off a contract stalemate that threatened to take the former featherweight champ out of the fold. SI.com was the first to report news of McKee’s new contract.
“Our top priority has always been to cultivate talent from the ground up, and with A.J. I can proudly say we have witnessed this young man blossom into a bonafide superstar in the BELLATOR cage,” stated President Scott Coker in a prepared release. “It’s also our priority to retain top talent, and with A.J. 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.
“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.”
McKee had one fight remaining on his previous deal and entertained the possibility of moving to the UFC were he not to meet his goal of earning $1 million per fight. McKee’s father, MMA vet Antonio McKee, blasted MMA promotions for underpaying Black fighters. The younger McKee then lost this past October to Patricio Pitbull, the champ he beat for the featherweight belt, which weakened his power at the negotiating table.
McKee rebounded this past month with an impressive showing at the Bellator MMA vs. RIZIN card on New Year’s Eve, outpointing Roberto Souza to up his record to 20-1.
McKee debuted in Bellator in 2015 and won 18 straight fights including his title win.