49-year-old Antonio McKee returned to the cage for the first time in five years Saturday night at Bellator 228.
McKee, the father of Bellator rising star A.J. McKee, who also fought on the card, picked up a second-round TKO. He said after the fight that he could feel the effects of the layoff during the beginning of the fight.
“There was a little ring rust, but I started waking up a little bit,” McKee said to media at The Forum in Inglewood, California. “There’s nothing like being under the lights. You can practice all you want, you can train as hard as you want, there’s nothing like being in there. It’s a different feeling. And I think I forgot that feeling.”
According to McKee, a lot of overcoming the rust is mental.
“I just kept telling myself I can do it,” McKee said. “The more and more I said that to myself, the more I started to see, the more chances I decided to take. You never see me throw spin kicks, head kicks, but I stated to feel comfortable. I felt like I was at home.”
It was a special night for the McKees, as his son A.J. picked up an eight-second knockout of Georgi Karakhanyan in the opening round of the Bellator featherweight grand prix. This was the first time a father-son duo fought on the same card in the U.S.
McKee doesn’t think this was a one-and-done. If given the opportunity, he would love to step back into the cage – and not in five years, either.
“It just felt so real,” McKee said. “And being at this age, and being this healthy naturally – no PEDs, no steroids, none of that crap – I just want to be a trendsetter for a lot of these young kids. (I want them) to say, ‘If McKee can do it at 49 years old, I can do it, too.’”
When asked how he believes he was able to perform the way he did Saturday night at the age of 49, McKee said a lot of it comes down to what happened earlier in his career.
“I took very good care of myself,” McKee said. “I didn’t take a lot of damage in the beginning of the career.”
McKee also said that since he has planned to one day fight on the same card as A.J. for the past 10 or 15 years, he has done things to ensure he’ll still be physically able to once the time is right.
McKee said if Saturday night was it, he’d be satisfied with how his career unfolded. Now, he said, the focus is on his son’s career. Even though he does want to fight again, his own career is not his top priority.
“I’ve had my big flash,” McKee said. “I enjoyed the hell out of my career. Whether they booed me or cheered for me, I had a good time and I didn’t suffer any real injuries. I’m happy to just be here.”