EXCLUSIVE: AJ McKee details years-long beef with Emmanuel Sanchez
Bellator featherweight grand prix finalist AJ McKee actually has an opponent preference for the tournament’s finale. However, it is not reigning division champion Patricio Freire, but instead former title contender Emmanuel Sanchez. While McKee has called for a fight with Freire for years, he is willing to put that on the backburner to settle some personal issues with the Roufusport talent first.
McKee on Sanchez: “F*** are you talking about dumbass?”
As McKee tells it, his tale of dislike with Sanchez began over four years ago, when the pair were booked for a December 2016 matchup that eventually fell through.
“So at like 9-0, we were scheduled to fight, and I don’t know what happened. His coach told him not to take the fight or something. I sign the contract, I show up to fight, hurt or not. Whatever the case is I’m going to fight,” McKee told MixedMartialArts.com. “We ended up getting rescheduled, it wasn’t him, the fight blew off. [Then] he comes out of nowhere talking about he wants to fight. We were supposed to fight. F*** are you talking about dumbass?”
Yet things did not end there. “Mercenary” claims that Sanchez has continued to be the gasoline keeping this hate fire going up until recently.
“Then I see him in Boise when I fought Pat Curran. He’s not fighting, nothing’s going on and you’re talking s*** to someone that’s fighting. You’re an idiot for doing that,” says McKee. “Whatever your beef is, whatever your issues, he’s got somebody completely different to focus on. I’m not fighting you. I’m grabbing the nearest weapon homey. We’re not in the cage right now. Street fighting and cage fighting are two completely different things dog. Don’t get this cage stuff mixed up with being outside of the cage. You’re going to see a different animal I don’t think you want to see. He starts tripping, [saying] ‘what are you looking at boy?’ I’m like alright, we’ll deal with that later. Then I ended up seeing him at the Georgi [Karakhanyan] fight, [and he says] something, something, ‘we’ll see at the selection who you pick.’ And the selection came down, and we saw who picked what, and I haven’t really heard much since then.”
Plotting and scheming for champ-champ status
Despite the problems between the two, McKee has respect for the abilities of “El Matador” and sees him as a serious test for Freire in their upcoming rematch at Bellator 255. Especially, since Sanchez and the champion’s first go-around in November 2018 was a highly competitive affair. Considering “Pitbull” already has a win over his semifinals foe and has been publicly calling for fights with Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweights like Max Holloway, there is the thought that the Brazilian is overlooking his opponent. McKee doesn’t subscribe to such ideas based on what he has seen recently.
“It’s a great fight. Their first fight was close, but I wouldn’t say he’s overlooking him,” said McKee. “Me being up there, and doing some PR stuff for Bellator, seeing both of them speaking on each other, and seeing them together, I wouldn’t say Patricio’s overlooking him. But at the same time, Patricio’s never gotten the respect he deserves in the sport. So, I understand why he’s campaigning [for UFC opponents] like ya’ll can get this too. I’m the same way. We can run this at any point and any time. Just give us the green light. I really don’t care who wins, I’m going to finish either one of them regardless.”
In the end, the 25-year-old’s fight preferences come from a strategy to clean out the entire featherweight division, while also setting up even bigger fights down the line. Namely, a cross-division superfight with Freire for the championship he also holds at lightweight.
“I prefer Sanchez to win. Just so I can run through the entire division [and] receive the 145-pound title with everyone’s name on it. Then the 155-pound title, I can go fight Patricio for. That’s the superfight everyone wants anyway. I think it’s inevitable for us to fight.”
Full interview with AJ McKee