Mitch McKee walked off the mat at the 2021 Men’s Freestyle Wrestling Olympic Team trials, unsure of what his future would hold. He has wrestled at some of the highest levels one can reach throughout his amateur wrestling career. McKee had a prolific high school wrestling career which included a Junior World Silver medal before going to the University of Minnesota where he was a four-time NCAA Qualifier and 2019 NCAA All-American.
Luckily, McKee’s fellow Minnesota Wrestling alumni and current Bellator Interim-Welterweight Champion Logan Storely had something he wanted McKee to consider.
"I got done with the Olympic Trials last year and didn’t know what I was gonna do, either keep wrestling or get a job," McKee said. "He (Storley) called me up like a week or two later and asked me if I wanted to check out Sanford and MMA in general. I went down for probably two weeks and checked it out and loved it, and within a month and a half I was moved down."
McKee would take his first professional MMA fight in December of 2021 at LFA 120, roughly six months into training and win by TKO in Round 2. He then made his second pro appearance this past April at LFA 128, winning by TKO in Round 1.
Now, 2-0 as a pro, McKee will make his Bellator debut at Bantamweight this Friday at Bellator 284.
The move down to Sanford MMA (which has recently re-branded to Kill Cliff Fight Club) came with an entirely new set of skills for McKee to learn.
"I hadn’t done too much striking, and then you move down here and everyone is a super high-level striker," McKee said. "It was frustrating at first, but when I kinda started to get the hang of it it became exciting to go in every day and feel like I’m growing again."
McKee, surrounded by many high-level coaches and training partners, feels he is in the best place to grow as a fighter, and grow quickly. He believes by the end of next year, he"ll be knocking on the door of Bellator"s Bantamweight Belt.
"He (Henry Houft) watches all the practices. He’ll watch you spar and tell you things he saw and what you need to work on," McKee said. "It’s huge to have a guy like that, he works 24/7 and I get to learn a lot from him."
Head Coach of Kill Cliff Fight Club Henry Houft will also be in McKee’s corner for the first time in this upcoming fight.
McKee also believes he is able to bring his own high-level knowledge into the practices at KCFC.
“The back and forth helps a lot," says McKee. “Being able to learn from guys in the striking and helping them with the wrestling helps me out a lot. That"s one of the great things, down here a lot of guys have wrestling backgrounds so I"m still able to get good rounds and get better everywhere."
Bellator 284 will be a return to the midwest for McKee. The event takes place in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, only a four-hour drive from where he went to high school in Saint Michael, Minnesota.
"It’ll be cool whether it’s people from Minnesota or because Logan (Storely) will be in my corner and he’s a South Dakota boy," McKee said. " We were there for my last fight too, and we had a bunch of Minnesota fans, a bunch of my friends and family, we’ll probably have just as many this time, and it’ll be fun."
McKee fights on the Preliminary Card of Bellator 284, fighting against the 5-4 Tony Ortega. Ortega is on a two-fight win streak and is also making his Bellator debut.
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