Rhys McKee: I’ve trained for nights like this my whole career

Rhys McKee makes the walk for his highly anticipated UFC debut tomorrow night. He steps in on 6 days notice to face hot prospect Khamzat Chimaev. Both Chimaev and McKee made weight this morning for the bout. The Swede weighed in at 171 pounds with McKee tipping the scales at 170.5 pounds. The fight happens Saturday July 25th on Yas Island, Abu Dabhi.

McKee spoke to media after the weigh-ins about preparing for the bout, training during an pandemic, his thoughts on Fight Island and more.

Getting the call from UFC and thoughts on signing to the promotion:

  • Yeah, it’s just been hectic. We were coming back from a good training session, popped out to the shop to get something for dinner and I got the call. I thought it would just be a quick 5-10 minute call and then I would make dinner. And from there just everything totally changed. From early in that two-minute phone call it was very evident that definitely my next week was going to change but then in turn my life would probably change. 

Thoughts on preparing for the bout on short notice:

  • I’ve trained for nights like this my whole career, not just the UFC but any previous promotion I was in. I was always training for the opportunity to get a big fight last minute so it’s something I’m very very used to. This isn’t the first time I’ve worked hard. This is probably one of the first times that its truly paid off as I got the call I’ve always wanted. I suppose consistency comes into it when you’re working hard when you don’t even have to. This time it’s paid off. So I’m kind of proud how we stuck to our guns and kept working.

Thoughts on preparing and training through lockdown:

  • At the start when I had other fights planned, it was tougher. I think after a few weeks, or maybe a week or two, of complaining and being disappointed you kind of realise, your training is what gets you through and keeps you sane. Fundamentally it’s what we do so, you can’t be a professional athlete who sits and watches TV every night and doesn’t train for two weeks. It just doesn’t make sense, so that’s why we keep ready. 

Thoughts on Fight Island:

  • The quality of service we’ve got just being associated with the UFC is phenomenal, every experience so far has been out of the norm and nothing like I’ve ever experienced. So, from the minute we landed in Abu Dhabi it’s just been totally crazy. We could definitely get used to this quality of life and I suppose we’re going to have to.

Thoughts on opponent Khamzat Chimaev and how the fight might play out:

  • There’s a lot of hype behind him, he made his debut, last week or two weeks ago, but that is only really in my favour. He is a style that I have prepared for many times, he’s a 

wrestler that wants to spoil my game. As someone who was preparing for a fight in September it’s kind of no different, just a different face and a nicer, warmer place. It’s a fight that excites me. I’m looking forward to getting a hype train under my own name and taking all the followers he had from him and make them realize that I’m there for a reason and on the main card for a reason as well.I never would have signed that contract unless I was coming home with anything less than a win. Again, I’m really not here to get a nice new tracksuit. I’m here to take the win.

Hopes for UFC career:

  • I’m trying to get right to the top. Again, we’re starting very strong. We’re on the main card of a massive card on Fight Island. I really do believe with the right wins, the right opponent, the right finishes, there’ll be no other choice but for me to fight for the belt eventually and I know that will come in time. I’m certain of that.

Thoughts on MMA in the UK and Ireland more generally:

  • I think it’s a chance for Northern Ireland, Ireland and the UK to really tune in and just kind of realize that it’s possible to get on these shows. You might be training in a small local gym but with the right wins, the right fights and the right things in place, you can get there too. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility to fight in these big shows. So I think that’s where everybody should stand up and, and realize that everything will pay off and can pay off.
Ian O'Neill is a Kilkenny man living in Canada. You can catch him on Twitter most of the time talking all things MMA. Follow me on Twitter and on Instagram @ioneillmma.