Rhys McKee - Bamma 22

Rhys ‘Skeletor’ Mckee – The new era of Irish MMA

Rhys ‘Skeletor’ McKee (1-0) is an up and coming MMA fighter – fighting out of Next Generation Northern Ireland (NGNI). He made his professional debut at BAMMA 22 in front of a sold out 3 Arena and won impressively; gaining a lot of praise from his fellow fighters and various media outlets. Rhys is an unorthodox fighter with a great variety of skills and he has adopted a unique fighting style which is very hard for opponents to predict.

He started doing MMA during pre-season with his football team. “I went to MMA with my brother to get fit ahead of the new season and there was a grappling competition on at the gym so I competed in that. I’d only done a few classes but I got a feel for it and it just took off from there. Now I’m four or five years in and I’m loving it,” said Rhys.

Although he loved football, there was something about MMA that was different and sparked his interest. “It’s a buzz you don’t get off anything else; it’s not like football were you have ten other people you can blame, when you’re in the cage you can’t blame anyone else but yourself.” MMA is a sport that takes dedication and it comes down to you against your opponent and ‘when you get on the good side of a fight no one can take that shine away from you. Being on your own can be lonely but it’s a very rewarding sport’.

Rhys is trained by Rodney Moore, one of the biggest names in Irish MMA. It was Rodney who told him not to have a certain fighting style. “My coaches always said to have your own style and it’s something I’ve always remembered. I never got shouted at for using unorthodox moves while I was training and they even encouraged me to think outside the box.”

I’m probably one of the most unorthodox fighters. I like using a lot of different angles and I think a lot about stuff. I’d say this works to my advantage because I don’t think any opponent will be able to work out a game plan to fight me. I’ve got a weird style which no one can mimic and it’s something you’d have to feel during a fight.  I don’t think I’m an easy fighter to work out and as Bruce Lee says ‘having no style is the best style’,” He said.

In the build up to fights Rhys trains everyday besides Sunday. He would normally do ‘two sessions a day but that depends on what hours I’m working. I train a lot for someone my age and it can be tough at times but that’s what you have to do if you want to achieve the goals you’ve set’.

As an unorthodox fighter it can be hard to name a favourite strike or submission but Rhys said he likes to throw ‘a left hook to the body’ or his favourite submission would be a ‘guillotine or a Skelotine,’ the latter being a new submission he named himself.

He was given the nickname ‘Skeletor’ very early in his career. “When I first started at the gym I weighted 48 kilo and then I started to grow. I was cutting weight for a fight and it made me look like a skeleton then one of the lads in the gym called me ‘Skeletor’ and its stuck with me ever since.”

There has been no single inspiration for Rhys but he said “It changes for me all the time and at the minute I like watching Sage Northcutt, the new kid in the UFC. He’s only 19 and I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from him. People like Nick Diaz, Edson Barboza and Ross Pearson get me motivated. I love watching anyone that’s relevant to myself so at the moment watching Northcutt is cool because he shows you what’s possible.

Rhys ‘Skeletor’ Mckee – The new era of Irish MMA
Source: Ryan Ball Photography

Rhys also said that he grew up watching Nick Diaz and his favourite fight was Diaz against BJ Penn at UFC 137. “I think it showed just how good Diaz was as a fighter. Obviously BJ Penn is a legend so that was my favourite fight”

Training at NGNI has allowed McKee to train alongside the likes of Dec Larkin and UFC fighter – Norman Parke. This environment has been a huge part of his development as a fighter. “They’ve been a massive help to me! When I first started coming to the gym these were lads that I use to watch at shows and now they’re taking me aside to show me how I can improve, change my skills and get better. I can’t thank those guys enough for what they’ve done. Still to this day they help me a lot. They’re good guys and it’s great to have them around,” said Rhys.

On the 19th September at BAMMA 22 – Rhys stepped in at short notice to fight John Redmond (5-10) and make his pro debut. He defeated Redmond by rear-naked choke at 1:38 of the first round. He said, “It was surreal because I was in work on the Friday night previous and my coach asked me how fit I was; he asked if I could do a three round scuffle and I said ‘yea, no problem’. Then he told me who I’d be fighting and obviously John Redmond is a big character in Irish MMA. I wanted to skip the queue and take the fight. I was sitting on weight the week out and there was no reason why I couldn’t have taken the fight. It was probably one of the best nights in my life! It will be hard to beat that night in the rest of my career.

The fight showed how good McKee was on his feet and also on the ground. “I was happy that people got to see my show me hands after I told people I was a good striker. John came to fight and that brought the best out of me. I felt it went well, I was happy with my ground game.

I’ve fought in Dublin a few times and the atmosphere is brilliant but when you walk out at the 3 Arena it’s something a bit different. The crowd were amazing and it was an unbelievable night,” said Rhys.

Rhys also revealed exclusively to FightStorePROI that we may get to see him on the England V Ireland: BAMMA 24 card next year. He said, “There’s something in the woodworks, put it that way but I can’t say much at the moment. The England V Ireland BAMMA card is definitely a one I want to be on so watch this space! I’m looking forward to it.”

At the moment there is no one that he wants to call out and fight. “Once I get a few more wins under my belt I’ll start trying to skip the queue and calling out the big names. You’re not in the game for a long time so you have to try and get to the top as quick as possible,” he said.

As a young fighter he knows exactly how hard it can be starting out in MMA and he has offered his advice to anyone in that position. “I’d tell them to stay consistent and don’t lose your drive for it. It’s a tough sport and you will lose fights once you get in the cage but they’re the days that’ll make you as a fighter. They’re the days that will make the good days even better. You have to dig deep, stick with it, listen to your coaches and stay loyal to your team. That’s a big one for me – Stay loyal to your team!”

The ‘Skeletor’ recently became a sponsored fighter of FightStorePROi and he is delighted with the partnership. He said, “I’ve actually bought gear from them before the sponsorship and it’s great quality equipment. To have them on my team, sorting me out with training gear before fights is a huge boost!”

I use to go onto their site and look at their gear and it was all brilliant. They sent me a bundle a few days ago and I’ve been using away at that training gear. It’s some of the best quality stuff I’ve had and even other guys in the gym have tried it on and spoke very highly of it,” said Rhys.

You can follow him on Twitter: @RhysMcKee or like his page on Facebook: Rhys ‘Skeletor’ Mckee

Rhys ‘Skeletor’ Mckee – The new era of Irish MMA
Source: Facebook Acc

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