Rhys McKee: I wasn’t beaten by Tim, I was beaten by illness

Former BAMMA Lonsdale Champion Rhys McKee says he should have pulled out of his fight last weekend against Tim Barnett due to an illness.

The Ballymena man dropped his title to Tim Barnett in the first round via TKO.

McKee was diagnosed with ‘an intestinal infection that often leads to watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea or vomiting, and sometimes fever’ called Viral Gastroenteritis proceeding the fight.

McKee was apprehensive but eager to explain the reasons leading to his sub-par performance against Barnett. The Northern Irishman joined this week’s Talking Brawls to discuss the timeline of events which led to last Friday’s fight.

The Ulsterman said he first noticed the symptoms after Friday’s weigh-in at the SSE Arena.

“It was a relatively easy weight-cut. Yes, I cut maybe a wee bit more than I usually cut but still a lot less than other people still cut. Everything was going perfect. It wasn’t until after the weigh-in, when I started re-hydrating. I started getting this real exhausting feeling.

“After the weigh-in we were all standing about waiting to go home, and I just wanted to lie down. I just wanted a nap and go to sleep by the time I got home. I went to the girlfriend’s house and I couldn’t even talk to anyone, I needed to go to bed.”

The 21-year-old has made two trips to the hospital for IV’s since the fight in order to rehydrate and recover properly from the illness.

McKee said he went into the fight gaining only 1.7lbs after Thursday’s weigh-in and says he’s still below his normal weight on fight night.

“It’s still a struggle. I’m maybe up to 73kg (160lbs) or 74kg. Normally, I go back into a fight 78kg or 79kg, big and strong and well filled up. I’m still not at that level, yet. I think it’s going to a slow process of putting that weight back on a getting to where I should have been on fight night.”

The Next Generation Northern Ireland fighter was fighting in front of a large hometown crowd and says it was a personal decision not to reveal his illness to anyone surrounding him in case he was removed from the bout. McKee says he believed he could battle through the illness and win the fight.

“I believe if I showed everyone and told everyone about my weight, and how I failed to rehydrate. I definitely would have been pulled from the fight, but the fact is, I’m a fighter and I kept that very close to my chest. It was something personal for me, and I felt I could get through it.

“I was trying to hide it. I was trying to tell myself I was fine. I certainly didn’t tell anyone else what I weighed. I didn’t step on the scale in front of anyone else. I wanted to fight. I still believed if I went in there and landed the shots Tim would go down, but when I got in there it was very apparent I didn’t have the energy to throw ten power punches.”

McKee stressed that the incident was a learning curve for him and if something like this was to happen again, he would approach the situation differently.

“I would never recommend a fighter to go in and put himself at such a disadvantage. Taking nothing away from Tim, this is a fight I would have won. I find this very hard to take as a loss; I find it very hard to accept that I was beaten. I don’t believe I was beaten by Tim; I believe I was beaten by illness.

“Yes, he won the contest but even the finishing combo was more out of being so ill. I kind of wanted out of there, that’s the truth. It’s not an excuse. It wasn’t the power. You could have poked me in the belly, a five-year-old could have poked me in the belly and I would have crumbled.”

McKee congratulated Barnett but insists he wants a rematch on an even playing field with the Liverpudlian, and says that he’ll be no less than at 100% for the contest.

“It a lot easier to chew knowing that I wasn’t 100%. Again, sometimes it feels like I’m coming back to an excuse, but I know it’s not. I know that if I was 100% all of the things I’ve said would have been true. It’s easier to take knowing that I wasn’t myself, but obviously, I’m gutted. I missed the big hooray of Belfast but I’ll avenge that loss, and I’ll be back. I’ll get these big nights again in Belfast.”

“It kind of has to be that rematch. I don’t care about the belt. To be honest, it’s always been more than just the belt for me, the belt was just a title. I would like to avenge that loss, nothing personal against Tim. Let’s put it on an even playing field. Again, I put myself in that playing field at the start. Congrats on the night like, but let’s do it even. Forget the title. I don’t care about that.”

You can listen to the full interview below on this week’s Talking Brawls:

Listen in the player above or Download MP3

  • Rhys McKee joins the show at approx 28:40 in
Host of Talking Brawls on SevereMMA.com. Writer on SevereMMA.com, Video & audio editor. Often heard on 2FM, TalkSport UK. My work has been featured on leading MMA & mainstream outlets across the Globe.