What’s next? A.J. McKee saddened by Bellator’s potential fizzle, but ‘it’s just all business’ at this point

CHICAGO – If an example of homegrown Bellator talent needs identifying, A.J. McKee might be the most prime.

In the cage Friday at Bellator 301, McKee (21-1 MMA, 21-1 BMMA) partook in his 22nd Bellator bout. He’s never competed under any other promotional banner as a professional.

McKee, 28, admits Bellator has largely become part of his identity. Bellator president Scott Coker has long praised McKee. He often proudly describes the development of McKee throughout the organization.

Almost nine years after McKee debuted in the promotion, Bellator nears a potential sale or merger. The event Friday at Wintrust Arena could be the promotion’s final. McKee will balance emotion and business as he proceeds into the great unknown.

“Everything that I’ve built off of, everything I know has been through Bellator,” McKee told MMA Junkie and other reporters at a post-fight news conference. “This is my home. To see it go away, it’s sad. But at the same time, it’s just all business for me at this point. Bellator is like a home to me. Everybody here, the whole organization, the staff is just very loving. Everybody caters to what needs to be done. They help out like a team. To see that whole family-oriented scenario go away, I’m a little bummed.

“(I’ll) put one foot in front of the other and keep walking. This journey is not going to stop. It’s just going to continue to go and go and go. Like I said, I wish everybody the best at Bellator. I hope everybody is taken care of and everybody is OK. It’s all with peace and love and blessings for me.”

Should Bellator announce future events and its lightweight grand prix continue, McKee advocated that he wants to step in as an alternate fighter, as champion and finalist Usman Nurmagomedov recently tested positive for a prohibited substance.

“I’d say just focus on the job that’s at hand,” McKee said. “That was my whole thing, (to) go in there and prove I want to be in that tournament, prove that I’m the man to win that grand prix belt (and) finish ‘The Mercenary’s Hit List’ as I call it. It’s just not a regular world title. It’s got eight names on that belt, one of them including mine. I feel anybody that wants that belt, they have to walk through me. So to be in that tournament, obviously Usman is out. But yeah, that grand prix belt is where it’s at for me.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for Bellator 301.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie