Former Lonsdale lightweight champion Rhys McKee parts company with BAMMA amid rumours of KSW deal
Former Lonsdale lightweight champion Rhys ‘Skeletor’ McKee has parted company with BAMMA.
The Northern Irishman terminated his contract early on mutual agreement as his relationship with the UK promotion broke down in recent months.
McKee (5-1-1) lost his Lonsdale title to Englishman Tim Barnett (5-0) at BAMMA 28 in February. Following the loss, he’d called for an immediate rematch but this never materialised.
BAMMA arranged for McKee to fight Richie Smullen (3-0-1) in a number one contender’s bout at BAMMA 30 in July. Their fight, which resulted in a majority draw. was regarded as a contender for ‘fight of the year’ and many expected the two to meet again in a rematch.
However, BAMMA announced this week that Smullen would face Barnett for the title at BAMMA 32 on November 10th in the 3 Arena, Dublin.
McKee made the decision to leave the promotion in an effort to further his own career.
“I fought a number one contender title fight. News came back to me shortly after that fight that Richie [Smullen] was getting the title shot next. It’s a complete mockery of what a contender bout is meant to be,” said McKee in an interview with Fightstore Media.
“It was never a contender bout and I feel that BAMMA wanted me out of their plans, that’s to the best of my belief. If anything, we should have had a rematch.
“I don’t think BAMMA respected me as a previous champion. They knew I’d been calling for the rematch with Tim [Barnett] but instead they went against that and gave the shot to Richie. I’m more gutted that I went over to Canada and put all my energy into a number one contender bout which never really was a contender bout.
“For that and many other reasons I decided to leave BAMMA. It’s the first time in my career that I’ve felt like this, they made me feel as if I was at the end of my career but that’s lies, I’m just getting started.”
McKee made his debut for BAMMA in 2015, stepping in on late notice against a veteran, John Redmond, and won via first-round submission. He quickly became a rising star in BAMMA, going on a four-fight win streak and lifting the Lonsdale title.
“I came in and fought John Redmond and never asked any questions. During all my fights with BAMMA I’ve had no issues, I never complained once. Any weight class they wanted me to go to I done it, any date or venue I done it.
“[After the loss to Barnett] I said, ‘Look give me one more shot when I’m well’. That’s all I asked for. I ask them one thing and it was a ‘no’.
“They told me that I needed to have another fight to get back into title contention. How is that fair on a former champion? I’m not being biased, don’t get me wrong, I like Richie a lot. If anything, it should be a rematch with Richie.”
The former champion reiterated that he respects Smullen but disagrees with the decisions that BAMMA have made.
“BAMMA are after one thing and that’s ticket sales. On paper that title fight doesn’t make sense but it makes sense for money and ticket sales.
“That’s alright but I’m not playing a part in their title picture. I want it done the right way, climbing the title ladder. I’m not saying that Richie doesn’t deserve a title fight but he doesn’t deserve it any more than me,” he said.
With fights still left on the multi-fight contract he’d signed, McKee had been prepared to honour it until it emerged that BAMMA had no plans for him until the new year.
“I’m a professional, full-time fighter and my goal is to fight. I want two more fights this year and to be told that I might not fight till next February it was another annoyance.
“My manager, Rodney Moore, got us out of the contract. It was a clean break. I would maybe go back and compete for them someday but I’d never sign a multi-fight deal with them again.”
Looking back on his time with the promotion, McKee has mixed feelings.
“You know up until I lost they were an amazing promotion. But this is my point, after I lost I was put to the back of the line. I was out of contention and it didn’t matter to them.
“I understand that it’s a business but it’s also a business for me. I understand what BAMMA are doing and I get it but it’s just not suiting my business. I must do something better for myself and my career.”
The 21-year-old feels ‘rejuvenated’ and ‘excited’ to return to action.
“I feel like a new fighter again. I’m excited to compete in different gloves, have a different commentator, announcer and cage.
“I love being signed to a big promotion but it’s not just that, it’s how you’re treated as a fighter. That’s very important for me. I need to have respect as a martial artist and when we lose that respect I felt that there’s only one choice.”
What’s next for Rhys McKee? His most likely destination now appears to be with Polish MMA promotion KSW. They will make their first appearance in Ireland on October 22nd with KSW 40.
“We’re trying to get something sorted now and I’m confident that a deal can be struck. I’m ready to go and I’m motivated. KSW is a huge promotion. We’re still in the early stages but I believe that we will work something out.”
If the deal is struck, McKee would appear alongside his friend and teammate Norman Parke on the KSW 40 card.
“Norman has done lots for my career. The chance to compete alongside him again would be an amazing night for me. I’d like to fight one of Gamrot’s teammates or something funky like that,” said Mckee.