Kevin Lee was close to becoming the UFC Interim Lightweight Champion last year at UFC 216, but a staph infection hampered him in his fight. Now he's looking to move on, but he's staying among the elite in the division.
Lee briefly considered moving up to 170 pounds, and has publicly pushed for the UFC to put together a 165 pound division after having a rough weight cut last October ahead of his title fight loss to Tony Ferguson. However, when speaking to Fightful.com's James Lynch, Lee confessed to having a new sense of motivation.
"I've looked at my surroundings in Vegas -- there's resources everywhere. I've brought in another guy, Montell Williams, who is going to help me break down film, help me with my game plan. Of course Dewey Cooper is still going to be in my corner. He's been in my corner for the long run, he's my striking coach. Corey, helping manage my body, making sure I make the weight and safely. I have a team of world class guys, even though obviously there's a big piece missing with Rob Follis gone, and there's even added motivation because I'm doing it for Rob. I said I wanted to fight June, maybe July, but I'm ready to get back on that horse," said Lee.
Lee is tasked with facing #4 Edson Barboza in the main event of UFC Fight Night 128. With his profile raised after competing in a UFC pay-per-view main event, Lee had no shortage of possible opponents.
"I had a lot of options, and Edson was right there in the top of them. I thought Edson was the best option because he was the toughest fight. Edson's hands down been the best striker at lightweight for years now. The only other one you could say is Anthony Pettis, and he beat Anthony pretty decisively. It's the best striker, it's the biggest challenge out there for me. I love a challenge. I'm not the one to look for a money fight or an easy win. He's the type of guy I'm going to be able to show off some new (parts) of my game," said Lee.
Kevin Lee said that he knows that Pettis will be in Las Vegas and he hopes to get some work in with him ahead of the Barboza fight. He also mentioned Yair Rodriguez moving to Vegas, who could help with kicks. Anthony and Chidi Njoukuani will also be helping with the camp. Even though he looks forward to Barboza, he's had a couple of run-ins with a former foe in Michael Chiesa.
"I've seen Mike around here," Lee laughed. "I ran into him this morning when I got training. As I'm training he's walking by and flipping me off. I waved to him, and waved to his girl behind him. I don't know what the dude is butthurt about. I saw the guy at the fights the other day, he's still butthurt."
In the full interview, Kevin Lee (16-3) discusses his upcoming fight against Edson Barboza (19-5) at UFC Fight Night 128 on Apr 21. Kevin also talks about switching his representation, his training camp for this fight and what's next for him.