For Anthony McKee, being a fighter was always the plan. From being a bit of a bully as a kid, to his first state championship while at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, McKee said his fighting comes from dealing with his own environment.
“I grew up in Long Beach in the ’80s, with the gangs and drugs,” said McKee, now 44. “I was an inner-city kid, troubled, eating the free lunches at (Martin Luther King Jr. Park) and fighting for them at Poly’s summer youth program.”
From there, he continued wrestling and ended up at Cerritos College where he focused on his business administration degree. Meanwhile he racked up state wrestling championships in 1989 and 1990.
“It was the closest I could get to a street fight,” McKee said. “Fighting was a place where I could vent my anger. I was a very angry kid coming up with no father or much home support. Things were just really complicated, so that was just an outlet for me — without feeling like I could get into trouble for it.”
Now McKee is returning to Cerritos College to host a Night of Champions event in order to raise funds for the wrestling program. The event is a mixed-martial art show that will hold 10 fights. Three of which will house well-known Southern California fighters in the sport, and proceeds will go to raising the funds for the Cerritos College Wrestling Squad to keep it afloat financially. Daniel De La Cuerva and Zach McAllister will be among those participating.
Now a retired fighter himself, McKee hopes he will be able to expose people to MMA and provide an opportunity for many to see wrestling as well, as the sport often highlights those who can wrestle well.
“A lot of people think it’s a barbaric sport, and I would actually agree to a certain extent,” McKee said. “It’s just that you have some kids that are so hyper that want to fight, and they’re good at it. If you take that away, then you’re going to put the fighting on the streets.”
Head of the wrestling team, Coach Don Garriott, said the event will give a boost to the wrestling team, who is in danger of being removed from the school budget due to budget cutting going on across the board.
“Even more than the budget cuts, the biggest thing was that we didn’t even have a gym for the last three years because our gym was undergoing renovation,” Garriott said. “This is our first fundraising event in the last three years.”
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