Will A.J. McKee continue in Bellator's featherweight Grand Prix?
- A.J. McKee may have to bow out of the 145 tournament.
A.J. McKee is hands down one of the best featherweights around. Not just in Bellator; but on the planet. The red hot undefeated fighter is now in danger for the first time in his career. Not in cage needing a miracle to pull out a win; but continuing his quest for gold.
He finally came clean that he tore his LCL ligament in the opening minute of his fight vs Derek Campos at Bellator 236. Two and a half rounds later on a gimpy leg, he got "The Stallion" to tap to an arm-bar. That was on December 21st. He's due to fight the equally tough Darrion Caldwell next in the semifinals. Although there is no set date as of yet.
The medical advice was to avoid surgery if the goal is to fight soon. But he got surgery a month ago and he's been rehabbing it. Time is of the essence here. The organization would like to get to the finals as soon as possible. Taking on someone of Darrion's skillset you'd need a full camp, and to go into the fight with as few issues as possible. An injured LCL is not an injury you can play games with.
Especially if you're 24 years old, about to enter the prime of your career, and sit at 16-0. Both him and his father/trainer, Antonio McKee, feel he could be ready sometime this summer. It's just a very tough ask though.
Bellator hasn't pressured him into a decision yet, but they soon might ask him to sit out the remainder of the tournament and come back stronger as the first challenger for whoever finishes with the belt. Which for his long term health might be the better move. Fighting, after all, is just a heartbeat in a fighters life. There's a long way to go afterward.
So if he's out what does Bellator do? They could give Caldwell a bye and put him right into the finals. But that's not something they'd probably want to do. So who could they slide in? There is one name that was glaring when left out of the tournament from the beginning. That is Aaron Pico. As of now, he doesn't have a fight scheduled either.
The former teammate of McKee's would present a great storyline. Aaron and A.J. are still very tight to this day and consider each other brothers. For if Pico wins the belt, he'd have to first defend it against his dear close friend and former teammate. It's a real movie script possibility.
Scott Coker has a history of tournament substitutes coming in and making history. Just see Daniel Cormier. He was the Strikeforce sub that put the MMA world on its ear taking the heavyweight Grand Prix.
Lightning may be due to strike again. And the incredibly well rounded now Jackson-Wink product who's five wins are all KO's is jonesing for the opportunity. With Pico also being a former teammate of DC as well; this becomes six degrees of separation tournament. But as of now the ball still sits in McKee's court.Published 05 Mar 2020, 06:09 IST