A.J. McKee hoped that he would main event a Bellator card in Dublin against fellow prospect and featherweight rival James Gallagher.
Instead, on Friday night at Bellator 187, “Mercenary” will look to add to his unbeaten record in a headline tilt against Gallagher’s SBG teammate Brian Moore.
Gallagher was initially set for his promotional main event debut at the top of the card, but was forced from the action when he suffered a knee injury in training. Jeremiah Labiano was then pegged to take on the Irishman, with his adversary McKee taking on Jeremy Petley, earlier in the night.
Moore might not be the marquee name that Gallagher is for Bellator, but McKee feels the reshuffle of opponents has given him a harder challenge than “The Strabanimal” could have brought to the table.
“I feel like Brian Moore is a better version of James Gallagher,” McKee told MMAFighting.com.
“He’s fought better people, tougher opponents. For me, when I’m in a fight I always feel it’s a bad fight for my opponent. I see this as another opportunity for me to show that I’m going to be the champ.”
Although Gallagher and McKee have gone back and forth on a number of occasions, there has never been a fight date scheduled between the two. McKee claims he has grown tired of waiting on the Strabane man.
“It’s getting old. You tell someone that they’re a p***y on national television and you tell them that they’re next and then they still go and take fights with other people,” McKee said.
“If that was me I would tell the organization that I’m fighting the guy that called me out and nobody else.
“People are going to protect him, but hey, it’s okay…I understand. It’s a business at the end of the day. You’ve got to build him up to that ass whooping because he doesn’t want get his ass whooped now for no reason.”
There are many who believe that victory over Moore could help goad Gallagher into a fight with McKee, but the Dublin headliner thinks his Irish counterpart is reluctant to sign on the dotted line.
“I don’t think the kid is ready for that kind of pressure. As far as the team, I’m not really that concerned. I’ll fight all of his teammates from 145 up to 170 – I really don’t care,” stated McKee.
“My focus is on Brian Moore. He’s the man who is showing up – he’s the man. Gallagher is nothing at this point to me. ‘The Jimmy Show’ is cancelled. All he does is go out there and hump peoples’ legs.
“Me and Brian go out there and put people down, so I’m gonna go out there and put Brian down and put on a show.”
Although McKee spoke of his respect for Moore, he thinks the Irish veteran has never encountered a style like his.
“He’s got more heart than most fighters, but as far as styles, he has never saw a style like mine, so there is no way for him to train for me. When it comes down to him, I just feel like he’s too small. He’s a small guy and he’s got short arms,” explained McKee.
“He’s got to get close to me, and that’s going to be a hard thing to do when I’m jabbing and punching him in his face. When I’m punching that’s his kicking range, and when I’m kicking, that’s his nothing range.
“He’s going to have a lot to deal with, but all credit to him. We’re going in there to put on a show.”