Lightweight finisher Terrance McKinney looks to continue inspiring story at LFA 109

Terrance McKinney looks at a camera while standing inside the LFA cage. Terrance McKinney will make his UFC debut at this weekend's card in Arizona. Photo Credit: LFA / UFC Fight Pass

It might be trite, especially in combative sports, to assert that the true measure of a person can be gauged depending upon how well they reacts to adversity. However, for some fighters, their adversity extends well beyond the punches and kicks – to the trials and tribulations of life itself. Enter Spokane, Washington’s Terrance “T.Wrecks” McKinney (9-3), a once promising collegiate wrestler that has turned his life around after a low.

Mixing alcohol and psychedelic drugs, McKinney entered a mental state that led to his arrest by police officers, which was captured on body cam footage. Officers used a taser to subdue McKinney to restrain him, and he was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance ride during which he was twice resuscitated.

In a 2019 interview with MMA Junkie’s Nolan King, McKinney noted that footage of his arrest “was tough to watch, but in the end, it was a blessing because it really changed my life around.”

McKinney feels like his experience is something he can provide to others as a cautionary tale.

“I was able to speak at high schools and middle schools and help change lives. Help kids quit drugs and realize there are other ways to have fun instead of doing drugs,” he said. “I was just trying to explain to them it takes one time, and that could be the end.”

After compiling a 7-1 record on the regional scene in 2019, McKinney was offered a spot on “Dana White’s Contender Series” against then-undefeated Sean Woodson, a lanky striker with a penchant for devastating knee strikes. For up-and-coming fighters, the “Contenders Series” represents an opportunity to showcase your skills in a near-empty arena as Dana White, Sean Shelby, Mick Maynard, and other relevant UFC suits watch cageside.

Despite an entertaining first round, McKinney was caught with a flying knee that put a halt to the fight. Woodson, now 6-0, would sign with the UFC that night. For McKinney? Well, it was back to the regional scene.

Just four months later, he would lose via triangle choke in under one minute to scrappy grappler Darrick Minner. It appeared McKinney’s inspiring story had come to an end. Not everyone can successfully complete the hero’s journey after all, and fighters rarely get a chance to fight in front of UFC President White once, let alone twice. 

Remember that adage that opened this piece? Yeah, McKinney picked the pieces up once again and is now riding a two fight winning streak. Two knockouts, one in 16 seconds and one in 17 seconds. In April of this year, McKinney made his LFA debut against Brazilian powerhouse Toninho Gavinho (10-4 at the time), whose last loss came in 2017 to arguably one of the best bantamweights on the planet right now – Cory Sandhagen. In the blink of an eye, McKinney clipped the top of Gavinho’s head with a head kick, causing the Brazilian to plummet toward the canvas as McKinney unloaded with ground-and-pound upon the covering foe. It all happened so fast, but one thing was for sure: if we thought McKinney was just going to be a footnote in the annals of UFC and Contenders Series trivia, we were dead wrong.

This Friday night at LFA 109, McKinney once again has the opportunity to prove to the MMA world that he is an elite fighter worthy of the big show. He takes on Puerto Rican finisher Michael Irizarry-Ortiz (12-3), a well-rounded fighter coming in with back-to-back rear naked choke victories. For Irizarry-Ortiz, the fight represents an opportunity to familiarize fight fans with his style and personality by defeating a fan-favorite in the main event.

Middleweight legend Chael Sonnen once remarked that for a fight to hold weight, for the masses to care, it has to extend beyond the punches and the kicks and the takedowns. It has to thoughtfully and convincingly answer the question “Why are we here? Why do we care?” At LFA 109, the stakes could not be higher as two lightweight prospects vie for supremacy atop the division’s ladder. When you achieve success in LFA, there is only one logical next step, and that is a major promotion like the UFC or Bellator.