Kevin Lee returned to the win column in a big way at UFC 244, when he knocked Gregor Gillespie out cold with a head kick in the first round. The win snapped his two-fight losing streak and put him into the top-10 of the lightweight division.
For Lee, the exact head kick was not planned, but after a few exchanges, he knew the opening was there but was hesitant to throw it due to an injury.
“I feel like every single thing I threw in the fight was something we trained for. For this one, especially the head kick, I hurt my ankle like a week before the fight,” Kevin Lee said to BJPENN.com. “I told Firas, if I’m going to throw one head kick, it will be the left one cause it was hard for me to plant it and throw the right. So, I said f**k it, I’m going to hit him with the injured ankle. The ankle was a big problem, and it got to the point, where I didn’t know if I was going to take the fight. I could barely walk a week before the fight, but it was getting better and better each day.”
Heading into the fight, Lee was an underdog, which he didn’t agree with. He believed people were overlooking him, and knows this win will get momentum behind him again. The win also proves to him that lightweight is the division for him. Especially after what he says was a good weight cut and recovery where he added that he weighed around 180 pounds on fight night.
“Of course. I felt it, a lot of other people felt it, too. A lot of people wrote me off and they took me out of a lot of conversations that I should have been in,” he said. “I just let my actions do the speaking for me. I’ve been top-five, I’ve been top-one to me. I haven’t fought anyone at 155 that has really beat me.”
Now, with the momentum behind him, Lee is looking to return in early 2020. He wanted to return fight on UFC 245 but says that is not an option anymore. Whenever he makes the walk to the Octagon next, he hopes his opponent will be Paul Felder or Conor McGregor.
“If it was up to me, I would have liked to fight on UFC 245, because that would have been fun. But, I am starting to get a little name behind me so it is looking like early 2020,” Kevin Lee explained. “Which, is fine. It just gives me more and more time to build. A lot of these guys should have got me when I was young. Now they are letting me mature and getting into this thing.
“Look, Islam would have been a huge fight in Russia, but the fact that he said no, I’m looking for other fights now,” Lee added. “I know Paul Felder is looking for a fight, they are looking for someone for Conor McGregor on Jan. 18, that isn’t set yet. They are talking about ‘Cowboy’ but no contract have been signed. I don’t know, there is a lot of options.”
Although Kevin Lee wants a fight with McGregor, he doesn’t believe he will get it. He knows he would beat the Irishman and the last thing the UFC wants is McGregor to lose again.
“I am not even going to call for it. I’m not going to call Dana and ask to give me that fight because I know it and anybody that follows the sport knows I beat him,” he said. “The UFC doesn’t want him to take a loss or lose because they lose that cash cow. They have put a lot of money and time into him. But, from a competitor standpoint, I feel like that is something he should entertain. If he wants to fight for a title, and fight Khabib, he will need to fight tough wrestlers. What makes sense, my honest opinion is that fight should happen. But, he is going to duck me, he is going to duck Gaethje.”
In the end, if McGregor is not an option, Paul Felder seems like the likeliest option for the Tristar product. As for future fights, he still wants Khabib Nurmagomedov, but bouts with Justin Gaethje and a rematch against Tony Ferguson also intrigue him.
“I like both of those fights. I’m gunning after the gold and they gotta do Tony-Khabib and depending on when they do it, I’m gunning for the winner. However many fights it takes from now and then to get it, so be it. But, if Tony wins, that is a fight I want. Gaethje is a good fight, if I have to go through him to get to the winner of Tony-Khabib then so be it. I’m willing to fight anyone,” he concluded.
Who do you think Kevin Lee should fight next after UFC 244?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 11/11/2019.