UFC Vegas 49 Fighter to Watch: Terrance McKinney has overcome serious adversity

Terrance McKinney made his UFC debut at UFC 263. It was a blink and you missed it affair. McKinney, who stepped in on short…

By: Trent Reinsmith | 1 year ago
UFC Vegas 49 Fighter to Watch: Terrance McKinney has overcome serious adversity
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Terrance McKinney made his UFC debut at UFC 263. It was a blink and you missed it affair. McKinney, who stepped in on short notice, blasted Matt Frevola with a one-two and finished the fight with three (unnecessary) ground strikes. The total fight time was seven seconds – the fastest knockout in UFC lightweight history.

The surprise and awe of McKinney’s knockout win quickly faded to concern for the victorious fighter, when the 26-year-old injured his right knee during his post-fight celebration.

McKinney had three fights in 2021 before he faced Frevola. All three ended via strikes in the first round. The times on those stoppages was 0:16, 0:17 and 1:12. The longest of those outings came eight days before he stopped Frevola.

In August McKinney, who was a +170 underdog to Frevola in their June scrap, said his knee was fine and that it was just hyperextended. In September, he followed up, saying he could fight and that he was almost done with physical therapy.

McKinney’s knee might not have delayed his return, but COVID-19 prevented him from stepping into the octagon in his next scheduled bout, a November 2021 matchup opposite Fares Ziam. The UFC scratched the bout on the day of the event, UFC Vegas 43, after a member of McKinney’s corner tested positive for COVID-19. Not long after, the UFC announced it had rescheduled the lightweight matchup for UFC Vegas 49, which takes place Saturday at UFC Apex in Vegas.

The delay in returning to the octagon might have been an inconvenience for McKinney, but as adversities go, the lightweight fighter has experienced much worse.

In 2015, McKinney, under the influence of hallucinogens and alcohol, fell through a window. Things got worse from there.

“I almost cut my neck off, because I pulled my head back through the glass after I fell through it. I was so overwhelmed by the drugs that I fainted,” McKinney told MMA Junkie in 2019.

When police found McKinney, he was sitting against a fence, bare-chested, shoeless and covered in blood. Eight minutes after police arrived, according to KXLY, they deployed a Taser and a “lateral neck restraint,” to get him onto a gurney and into an ambulance. During the trip to the hospital, McKinney’s heart stopped twice.

After his near-death experience, McKinney had to face his mother, Kitara Johnson-Jones. Johnson-Jones is a former Chicago gang member. She left that life when she joined the Army and went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Today, Johnson-Jones is the Chief Human Resource Officer at Excelsior Wellness, a nonprofit healthcare system based in Spokane.

“I was really disappointed in myself,” McKinney told MMA Junkie. “Just seeing my mom’s face in tears. She could have lost me forever, and I’m her first born. That was a huge game changer for me. Seeing my family members crying and sad. Just seeing that inspired me to make a change. I tried to be around them every day, and I still feel they’re hurt. That pushes me to be the man I am today.”

McKinney, who had hopes of landing a spot on the Olympic wrestling team, left college to earn a living in mixed martial arts. He started his career with four stoppage wins. Adversity raised its head in his fifth pro fight.

Facing Tyrone Henderson in July 2018, who he had defeated by armbar five months earlier, McKinney experienced a horrific injury.

According to the Spokesman-Review, McKinney’s right leg was left “hanging by skin and muscle” after a kick left him with “snapped fibula and tibia bones.”

McKinney was back in the cage — and back in the win column — in February 2019 with a seven-second knockout win on a Conquest of the Cage card. Today, McKinney has a professional record of 11-3.

In short, some time off isn’t about to throw McKinney from attempting to reach his goals, which he told UFC.com include “A huge fight at the beginning of 2023 and getting a title mid or end of next year,”

McKinney is currently a +100 underdog to Ziam, who is a -120 favorite in their UFC Vegas 49 matchup. Ziam is 12-3 overall and 2-1 in the UFC. He is on a two-fight winning streak, with his most recent win being a June 2021 victory — at UFC 263 — against Luigi Vendramini.

McKinney vs. Ziam is scheduled for the prelims of UFC Vegas 49, which streams on ESPN+ on Saturday, February 26.

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About the author
Trent Reinsmith
Trent Reinsmith

Trent Reinsmith is a freelance writer based out of Baltimore, MD. He has been covering sports for more than 15 years, with a focus on MMA for most of that time. Trent focuses on the day-to-day business of MMA — both inside and outside the cage — for Bloody Elbow.

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