Two days after announcing his free agency, former BAMMA lightweight champion and highly touted Northern Irishman, Rhys McKee, already had made his mind up as to where he would compete next.
The Next Generation Northern Ireland fighter has always had an ultimate goal of fighting in the UFC’s Octagon. Despite the various offers that were on the table for him, Cage Warriors was always going to top the list for “Skeletor”, if the call didn’t come from Dana White and Co.
“There were a lot of [promotions] that you would expect,” said McKee on the latest episode of Eurobash.
“A lot of the major [promotions] other than the UFC approached us, but they were making silly offers and we didn’t think they benefitted us. Cage Warriors is the best thing for me now. I’m still young in my career and really, Cage Warriors is the only promotion I was interested in talking to.”
With the number of former Cage Warriors fighters who have transitioned to the UFC approaching 100, McKee sees a UFC contract within his grasp if he can clinch the promotion’s lightweight title, like Conor McGregor, Stevie Ray and Chris Fishgold before him.
“The evidence is there to show that Cage Warriors is the route to the UFC and that’s exactly why I’m here,” McKee said. “I’m going to climb through this division and get the title and then eventually I’ll be signing for the UFC. Cage Warriors can provide the platform and I’ll provide the knockouts. It’s gonna be a dream partnership.”
Although he has not been matched yet, the Ballymena knockout artist is hoping to fight before the end of the year and claims that he is open to matchups at 155 and 170:
“In terms of opponents, I have no idea who I’m getting, but I’ve told [Cage Warriors] that I would like to fight before the end of the year. I’ve also said that I’m open to taking fights at welterweight, so I’m not locking myself to the lightweight division; I want to compete in both. It’s in my interest to fight before the end of the year.”
McKee also revealed how frustrating it was to be left on the shelf during BAMMA’s continued hiatus.
“I was fight-ready from August onwards. [BAMMA] weren’t telling us there was a show, but they also weren’t telling is there was no show. They kind of had said December, but there was no [announcement], so I kind of knew that it wasn’t happening,” he explained.
“In fairness to BAMMA, they did say I could go and fight for someone else. We were trying to find fights, but if you weren’t signing [for the promotion] it was hardly worth my while. It was more beneficial to wait and get the contract sorted. Eventually I got my release and here we are.
“I’m ready to go and I’ve been ready for a long time.”
On the latest episode of Eurobash, MMA Fighting’s Peter Carroll chats with Irish UFC veteran Neil Seery about the Irish media’s reaction to UFC 229, Conor McGregor’s performance and the impact it has had on MMA. The Rhys McKee interview begins at 1:06:00.