When Antonio McKee watched his son AJ McKee win the Bellator featherweight title, it not only fulfilled what he said was a prophecy, but set in motion the next phase of a career he believes to be without. limits.
In the Wednesday edition of MMA timeElder McKee said his son was a better version of himself in every way and should be paid as such. That’s why the McKee team is relying on the champion’s agents at CAA and the promotion belonging to ViacomCBS to renegotiate his contract after his submission from Patricio Pitbull to the Bellator 263.
A two-decade veteran of the sport, Antonio McKee has said MMA is a dirty business, especially for black fighters.
“They are simply underpaid,” he said. “I know the contracts. … Go get all the paychecks and stubs from the day and how these fighters were paid. That’s why right now you have Francis Ngannou, these guys don’t try to fight, Jon Jones, they don’t try to fight. Why? They want more money.
“If a company makes the kind of money that the UFC makes, and you give your fighters 10, 20%, less than that, and it’s usually the other way around, like, there’s something that doesn’t do not go.”
The elder McKee is referring to the UFC, which, according to court documents, has paid between 16-20% of its earnings to fighters over the past decade and expects not to pay more than 20% to the ‘to come up. Documents highlighted by an ongoing antitrust lawsuit against the UFC revealed that Bellator paid a higher share of its earnings to fighters, with 44.7% paid between 2010 and 2016.
Like the UFC, Bellator contracts include a champion clause that automatically extends the number of fights due to promotion. If AJ McKee had lost to Pitbull, he said, he would have been a free agent in September, although the company would have been entitled to match his next contract offer.
Now that AJ McKee holds the belt, he has said he owes Bellator three fights, which could take over a year, under the promotion’s champion clause. If he rejects the proposed fights, Bellator has the right to extend his contract, prompting his team to negotiate.
Admittedly too close to the subject, Antonio McKee said he had stepped away from his son’s negotiations so that the two sides could come closer. But he believes his son’s options are unfairly limited.
“AJ should be able to go fight in the UFC for $ 5 million if Bellator only gives him $ 1 million,” he said. “Why couldn’t he go and get more money to take care of his family and do his job. Why would you want to work for someone and know that you can cross the street, that it’s okay, and that you can get a better job and have a better life? That’s what we’re in there for, and at the end of the day it’s a business the way I see it.
“I tell him that I don’t have the emotions of being an employee. It’s a company, and I have to do [the] the best for the company, because our family are the employees. And if he comes out, then we all suffer. So let’s just line it up right.
Asked about the state of negotiations, McKee explained his reasoning for putting another degree of separation between himself and AJ’s career.
“It’s not in my hands now,” he said. “I couldn’t get through what I needed. One is my son. Second, I’m his trainer so it sounds like a conflict of interest, but when did you know a black man was going to ask a Jewish man to pay his black son money. When has it ever worked? When have they ever written a check to another Black for himself? No, I have to let the wolves dance with the wolves. I am a lion. I can’t be in the same place.
“I don’t know if I’m going to stay out of this, but I think CAA is working for AJ. They work for the McKee group. They are employed by us to do a job. I’m going to hold them accountable for the work they do, depending on what we want to do. This is the right way to go. That’s why I don’t understand why everyone always heckles me and gets angry. I’m sorry I didn’t go to Harvard and came back with a master’s in vocabulary. I understand the game. I have been here for a long time. I saw the contracts. It’s an ugly game. It’s ugly and mean and you know it. And I love my son more than I love life sometimes, so I want the best for him like any other dad. So why is it a problem that I talk so passionately about the sport well done by my son? “
AJ McKee wants to make a quick turnaround and hopes to fight before the end of this year. He approves a meeting with Pitbull for the Brazilian lightweight title and sees many intriguing clashes to accomplish his remaining fights with Bellator.
“I don’t care so much about the money, but I just want to fight,” he said. “But obviously that’s how I take care of my family, my dad’s family, so that’s the key. And he’s been in sports, he knows what to expect. He knows what sport is.
Antonio McKee has been there on his son’s journey from an undiscovered MMA prospect to an undefeated world champion. He is hopeful that Bellator is ready to reinvest in a property that has been built from the ground up.
“The way I see it is, either you make this kid happy or you let him fight for his three offers and you let him go,” he said. “The UFC is coming for him. Now this is another monster that we have to face. But I know what he’s capable of. Here’s a real Conor McGregor, it’s just that he has to figure out which way he wants to be labeled as a fighter.