With two seven-second knockouts already on his resume, Terrance McKinney felt all those winning feelings come rushing back when he rocked and dropped Drew Dober moments into their March 12 bout in Las Vegas.
As for the first thought that came into his head as the veteran hit the deck?
“I'm about to get famous as hell.”
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McKinney laughs about it now, nearly five months removed from his first UFC loss to Dober, who rebounded from more trouble that night to halt “T.Wrecks” at 3:17 of the first round. But McKinney has no regrets about taking on a former Top 15 foe just two weeks after submitting Fares Ziam, and then emptying his gas tank in search of a finish before getting clipped and stopped by Dober.
“I just got more excited and excited every time he dropped or looked hurt,” said McKinney. “The whole crowd was going wild. You would have thought we were in a stadium in there. It was crazy.”
The 27-year-old lightweight prospect is hoping to get a similar reaction in the same APEX building where he’s fought his last two fights when he meets second-time UFC competitor Erick Gonzalez on Saturday. The matchup came as a bit of a surprise to some, considering that McKinney’s first three UFC bouts were against Matt Frevola, Ziam and Dober, but the man in the Octagon with four-ounce gloves on isn’t bothered.
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“It didn't really matter to me who I fought,” he said. “I just wanted to fight and it just so happened they gave me that name and you guys know me as a fighter; I don't turn down anyone. If the UFC likes it and it sounds right, then I'm signing on the line every time.”
That’s made McKinney a fan favorite already; well, that and a seven-second finish of Frevola, but when he lost to Dober, you had to assume the trolls were going to come out.
“People talk crap, but those are casuals, man,” McKinney said. “Anyone that really knows the sport knows that what I did was spectacular, even in the loss. I was the only person ever to drop Drew Dober in the UFC, and I did it in 10 seconds.”
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And when you add in the reaction from the fight, which was hell on wheels for as long as it lasted, everyone wants to see what McKinney delivers next.
“I took that as a huge positive because Drew Dober was formerly ranked and that shows that I can compete with the Top 15 in the world. I'm right there. There's nothing like a bump in the road to define a true champion. I took an L, but I'll never let them define who I am.”
That attitude will not only serve McKinney well in the fight game, but in life, where he’s already taken his share of knocks, most notably a well-documented near-death experience in 2015. From there, he changed everything, something not too many have the willpower to do.
“I just felt like God spoke to me,” McKinney said. “I was like, the job's not done. I've seen all this fighting, I think I'm supposed to fight. And I had to ask myself, do I want that (his past life) or do I want to go fight for my life and get it back? And seeing all the people that I hurt and all the stress and the court I had to go through to get my life back to normal, I knew I never wanted to go back.”
He didn’t. In the process, he’s become one of the hottest prospects in the sport, an engaging figure on social media, and an inspiration to those who may be living the life he once lived. He doesn’t take any of this for granted, and his message is more important than one in which he’s calling out future opponents.
“At first, I thought my purpose was to just fight, but God works in mysterious ways and he put the story in the light,” said McKinney. “I was already speaking at schools, and now I'm doing it more so, and I know I'm supposed to help change the youth and let them know they're not alone. I was hanging out with those guys so I didn't feel alone, and I'm letting those kids know they're not alone. I suffered growing up and I've been there. I've been bullied, I experienced it all, and they're not alone and I want them to know there is a way out - there's light at the end of the dark hole that you're in.”
In the meantime, Terrance McKinney is gold chasing.
“The support team that I've got and just knowing the sacrifices people made and the things that they said to help me become the person that I am today, they didn't quit on me when I was at my lowest point, and they always still believed in me and thought I had what it takes to be in the UFC,” he said. “And now, for me, it's personal. I can't just say I want the belt and never get it. It's not only for my fans, my teammates and my family, but this is for me. I gotta be a man of my word, and until I get the belt, I tell people the job's not done.”
UFC Fight Night: Santos vs Hill took place on August 6, 2022 live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!