CW100 Rhys McKee: I felt signing a Bellator Contract was giving up on my UFC Dream

Cage Warriors 100

To kick off our coverage of the landmark Cage Warriors 100 event in Cardiff, I sat down for a chat with Lightweight Rhys McKee. He fights Jefferson George on December 8th in the ICE Arena at CW100 in what many are pointing to as a Fight of the Night Contender.
Although there are two championship title fights on the Cage Warriors 100 card many are chomping at the bit to see these two face off. I started the ball rolling in our Interview by asking Rhys about this fight and his preparation.
” It was a bit different of an approach than what i was used to, we only got the name about 4 weeks out. I was getting ready before that anyway so what seems like a short notice for a lot of fighters – it’s actually much longer than what I’m used to.
When I signed with CW they told me to be ready for the Cage Warriors 100 Card. At that stage it was 9 weeks away. So i started getting ready straight away. I know a couple of opponents got offered it and didn’t want it for whatever reason. Then they got me Jefferson about 4 weeks out – and here we are “

Cage Warriors and BAMMA

This will be Rhys McKee’s first fight for the renowned Cage Warriors promotion. Previously with BAMMA he talks openly about the transition.
“BAMMA obviously are in a wee bit of difficulty at the minute. But I fought out my BAMMA contract anyway. I would have had no fights as the contract was up after my last fight ( BAMMA FIGHT NIGHT London: June 28th 2018).
Cage Warriors were an easy choice they came back with the best offer. When I got my release I was approached by about 4 promotions within a day. Actually within a day I had my decision made and contract signed with Cage Warriors. So it was very quick. I like to have stuff wrapped up – I don’t like waiting about”

Next Generation MMA

It is pretty obvious that Rhys and the Next Generation team were prepared for a jump up in level for Rhys ahead of the end of his BAMMA Contract. The trust between fighter and gym is obvious throughout our conversation.
” I have been with them since I walked in as a 15 year old kid. It’s pretty much my second home, I spend so many hours there. It’s an amazing place and Rodney Moore is the Head Coach. He supports me in every way he can and the same with rest of the gym. They are a very important part of my life.
There are 8 or 9 of us professionals. At this time of year a bit fewer around coz I am the last one fighting before the end of the year”

Cage Warriors 100

Opponent Jefferson George

We had a good chat about his upcoming opponent Jefferson George. The respect for opponents is obvious and again Rhy’s does not seem to be a trash talker.
” Jefferson was fighting on the same card I fought on last time out. In the Terry Brazier fight he was on the undercard.
He’s a tricky character he always comes with something different every fight. He’s a puzzle that I’ll have to find a bit more about before the 8th of December. I think that’s when my fight IQ will come into it. I’ll have to work stuff out on the job as well, as it were. He poses a lot of threats. He’s a good fighter and he’s game. So it’s good for the fans definitely so see how it will play out.
I still get this misconception from people thinking I’m a striker. I’m very comfortable on the mat as well with my wrestling. I suppose all my best fights have been showing up on the feet. But i definitetly like a bit of grappling too”

Terry Brazier defeat and Future Ambitions

I was curious to see how Rhys had processed his last fight against Terry Brazier. The fight ended in a unanimous decision win for Brazier. Brazier is very big for a Lightweight and has fought and beaten a lot of Welterweights including Alex Lohore. Terry of course was part of the Bellator summer spending spree and will be fighting for that promotion shortly.
” He was good. He done the job. Terry isn’t a highly skilled fighter but his main attribute is that he’s tough. That overcame my skills on the night which is a pity. He was good at what he done “

On Potential Bellator Interest in Rhys.
Yeah, yeah, yeah they certainly were but they were never an interest of mine. I felt signing a Bellator contract was giving up on my UFC dream. It is understandable if other people have different ways of looking at things but that’s how i felt.
I would like to see out my Cage Warriors contract and then move up to the UFC. I have a 5 fight contract so after the 5th fight I’d like to be in a position to go up to the UFC.
For me that would be ideal. But I have 5 people to beat first!
Indeed McKee is not wrong on that score. Cage Warriors have a huge tradition of providing a conveyor belt of fighters into the UFC. The number standing at well over 70 at this stage. If that is your goal on this side of the Atlantic, Cage Warriors is definitely the most likely promotion to get you there.

Other interests, income and hobbies

Being a Healthy level of nosey (unhealthy some might say) I always like to find out if or how professional MMA fighters supplement their income.
” I run my own gym as well, RMK Training. It’s a branch or extension of Next Generation really. We have our own MMA team down there too. That keeps me busy. I’m training all year round. All year round is nearly like a fight camp.
One of the best things I say to people is that when I get a fight nothing really changes. Rodney Moore runs the Headquarters and my gym is an Affiliate of the bigger one. I train in the main one with Rodney.
A lot of my income to be honest is through Sponsors. I have a lot of good sponsors that look after me. The gym business is not gonna making me a multi-millionaire – put it that way. It keeps me busy though and keeps me dedicated to the craft.
For me it’s never been about money but you need to pay the bills and buy a nice pair of trainers every now and then “
When i was doing my research on Rhys McKee one of the facts i found curious is that he is 6′ 2″ quite tall for a lightweight. How does a man 6 foot two inches feel about making 155 where the average height would be closer to 5′ 8″?
” Hungry! – I walk about at 84 or 85 kilos and the fight is at 70 kilos. If I’m dedicated to the task in hand in 6 weeks making 70 isn’t really a big issue. I have to stay dedicated definitely but it’s never really been a problem. I don’t have an ambulance waiting outside or anything “
On the need for more weight divisions:
” Definitely I think things can be looked at. For example in this fight we are both Fighting at Lightweight, but if we had a gentleman’s agreement to fight at 77KG. Obviously we can’t ballon way up after the weigh in.
I’d be all for that type of thing in general. The less weight a fighter cuts the better potential the fight has to be very good. It’s a 15 pound jump from Lightweight to Welterweight. So i am all for gentlemen’s agreements but i suppose the problem is that someone tries and cheat that as well “

Cage Warriors 100 and Cardiff

Rhys is very happy with his preparation work for his debut on the Cage Warriors 100 stage. Like most fighters a couple of weeks out – he is just eager to get on with it now.
In Martial arts one of the biggest battles is finding enough time to get all your different sessions in. For this one I’m doing striking, Wrestling, Grappling and some Gi work as well. I feel I have good balance but the danger is over-training. I am good at recognising it.
For me , I notice maybe that my body isn’t recovering as quickly as normal. Another one is that my appetite can become heightened. I know the cues. For instance on Monday I was to train in the morning and I took that session off and just trained in the evening.
I’m not one of these fighters that beats themselves up mentally if I miss a session. I’d much rather have a better next session than two crap ones
I’ve never been in Cardiff. I’ll go over on the Thursday and the weigh-Ins are on the friday. Fight on the Saturday and home on the Sunday. Sometimes I have a habit of staying in these places for a few days but to be honest now I’d just like to get home and just start Christmas I suppose.

Final Words

I’ll leave the final words of our conversation with Rhys. Like many of you I am looking forward to seeing this fight in particular and wish him well.
” Just starting my new career with Cage Warriors and the landmark Cage Warrior 100 event – I want my skills to do the talking really.
I’m blessed from early in my career that people drift towards my fights and like to watch me. I put a lot of my Martial Arts life on-line which people seem to tune in and relate to.
I spend a bit of time on it…but i do nothing that I don’t want to do if that makes sense. Same with Interview requests. Like this here as an example. I want to do this interview. I never look at it like i Oh i need to put a post up…I never look at it that way. It’s organic and it’s good fun. “

Written By: Gerry O’Neill

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