Kevin Lee believes his retirement wasn’t meant to be.
Less than one year into his life post-combat, “The Mo-Town Phenom” got the itch to return to active competition. Taking to Twitter last week, Lee announced he’s getting in “the best shape of my life” ahead of the eventual 28th fight of his career (19-8).
The one-time interim lightweight title challenger’s last appearance was supposed to be the launching pad for a successful second stint in the UFC. Unfortunately for Lee, he came up short in 55 seconds when submitted by a Rinat Fakhretdinov guillotine choke this past July. So who could he look to rebound against for his next time out? A rematch of his October 2017 title tilt with Tony Ferguson interests Lee, but so do some other rather notable lightweight stars.
“There’s a couple great fights [I’m interested in],” Lee told MiddleEasy. “Tony Ferguson, maybe the winner or loser of Conor [McGregor] and [Michael] Chandler.
“I’m honestly not focused too much on opponents right now. I think I have a long road ahead of me as far as getting healthy [goes]. Two, getting into shape, and three, signing a contract. Then maybe we can look at location and then talk about opponents. So, it’s far down the road for me to be thinking about opponents.”
Nothing is set in stone in any facet as mentioned by Lee. Hell, the long-awaited McGregor vs. Chandler matchup still isn’t even official after what feels like an eternity of build. Ultimately, Lee expects to get something pinned down for the summer.
The 31-year-old has found his best success in the 155-pound lightweight class and strung together a strong five-fight winning streak before his third-round triangle choke defeat to Ferguson. After the Ferguson loss, he struggled to find a solid foundation at either lightweight or welterweight, however. Going forward, he believes it’s time to be as disciplined as possible and get back to the stability he had during his rise to title contention as a lightweight.
“It’s a tough cut, it’s always been a tough cut, but I’ve always been able to make it,” Lee said of lightweight. “The only time I wasn’t was for the Charles Oliveira fight, which I came close in but there was a lot of let’s say extenuating circumstances around the whole COVID thing and all that leading up to that fight and that weight cut that got it away. I think I’ve been a little soft about cutting weight over the last couple years. It’s tough, it’s probably the hardest part of the sport but I think it’s absolutely necessary, and especially if I’m gonna be chasing world championships. I have to go through it just like everybody else. We can look and we can say, ‘Oh, we shouldn’t be cutting weight or we should not blah, blah, blah,’ but at the end of the day, we gotta cut weight. If you want to compete, you’re gonna have to cut the weight and that’s what it is for me.
“I can make the weight. That’s where most my success comes from, that’s what my frame is built for and me trying to pack on the pounds and go to 170, not only is it bad for my joints and bad for my knees, it made me slower and it’s just an unsuccessful [attempt].”
In the end, Lee is happy to leave behind welterweight where he last fought but also is glad to have gotten physical proof of how things would turn out for him. Against Fakhretdinov in his first UFC comeback fight, that was just a result he admits could have been avoided.
“In hindsight, it was a dumb fight, it was stupid,” Lee said. “I mean, I knew my knee was torn to shreds the entire time, it was the worst training camp that I ever had. I couldn’t even spar or go hard in the training camp at all. That fight was purely out of pride and ego of me being cut from the UFC, and not on the terms that I would have liked and me kind of getting this opportunity and letting my pride take over and say I would do it. Yeah. in hindsight, it was a terrible decision.”
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Should have been champ.
Thompson’s Jake Ellenberger, Hendricks and Rory MacDonald stretch of wins was peak Wonderboy. He looked unstoppable. https://t.co/EW4hCKwsDf
— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) February 6, 2024
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There are multiple, very different reasons that none of those three matchup options should happen. I’ll leave it at that.
A healthy Lee at lightweight is always an interesting thing though. Where does he fit into all of this in 2024?
Thanks for reading!
Who of the three that he mentioned interests you most for Kevin Lee?
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