BALLYMENA’S Rhys McKee has hailed fans for their immense backing as he made a televised UFC debut.
The mixed martial arts man flew out to Abu Dhabi at short notice to take part in ‘Fight Island’ against Khamzat Chimaev.
McKee lost out to a tough opponent but said afterwards: “What an amazing game. For the whole country who supported me, I am eternally grateful. Onto the next one.”
McKee, 24, accepted the fight in the Middle East with only six days notice.
Chechen-born Chimaev, now fighting out of Sweden, recorded his second win on UFC Fight Island in the space of 10 days.
That was despite a valiant effort and some incredible heart from McKee.
Speaking after the fight, McKee said: “It’s been an amazing week and experience.
“I am extremely proud of myself and my team. We turn up with no excuses. Six days or 66 days, we will always be ready.
“What an amazing game. For the whole country who supported me, I am eternally grateful. Onto the next one.
“Congratulations to Khamzat Chimaev, a real beast. I look forward to seeing him fight again. I will be back better as I always am,” the BBC reported.
Fight fans back home in Ballymena and beyond watched on via BT Sport.
They were proud to see and hear the sports star’s name and that of Ballymena mentioned onscreen after 1am our time on Sunday.
The master of ceremonies in Abu Dhabi belted out the words that McKee was “fighting out of Ballymena, Northern Ireland”.
It was a a big moment for local sport and fans hope there will be much more to come.