Kevin Lee is hoping to lure unbeaten UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov out of his recently announced retirement.
Nurmagomedov, who is 29-0 as a pro, announced his retirement after defeating Justin Gaethje by submission in the main event of UFC 254 in September.
“This was my last fight,” a visibly emotional Nurmagomedov said in his post-fight interview with Jon Anik.
“I promised [my mother], it’s going to be my last fight,” Nurmagomedov added. “It was my last fight here […] Today’s my last fight in the UFC.”
Despite this retirement announcement, many members of the MMA community believe Nurmagomedov will return to the Octagon at least once more, in an effort to push his record to 30-0. Lee is among those with that opinion, and hopes to position himself in such a way that he’s an opponent Nurmagomedov wants to fight before he hangs up the gloves permanently.
“He’s going to come back,” Lee said of Nurmagomedov on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show recently. “He’s going to come back for one or two of them. It’s just my job to be the one that he’s going to come back for. I’ve got to be big enough for him to come back for.
“I’ve been kinda staying away from everything, been shying away from everything,” Lee continued. “It’s kind of an old Detroit mentality, kinda stay down until you come up. My last come up season was 2017, when I had my last come up season. So the next one, I’ll make sure I’ll give him something to shoot for. He’s still got that fire in him too, I know it. I’ve just got to give him something to shoot for.”
Kevin Lee has not fought since March, when he was submitted by Brazil’s Charles Oliveira. That setback put him back in the loss column after a huge knockout win over Gregor Gillespie.
Do you think he can earn a fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov before the Russian retires for good?