Kevin Lee is five years into the MMA fight game, and has his biggest opportunity looking him in the eye this fall.
Kevin Lee is going to be taking on Tony Ferguson for the vacant UFC Interim Lightweight Title in the main event of UFC 216. Even though he is battling Ferguson for an interim lightweight title, the fighter is stating that he is already the uncrowned UFC Lightweight Champion.
“I think I have been the uncrowned champ for awhile, I walk and talk like a champion every time you see me up here. When I was over there in Ireland and there was no media around me, I was still saying the same thing. I feel like I’ve been the champ for awhile, I’ve definitely shown I’m the future of this division. I think the UFC’s on board with that,” Lee said to Fightful.com correspondent Kendrick Johnson.
The current UFC Lightweight Champion is Conor McGregor, who hasn’t defended the belt since winning it at UFC 205, but competed against Floyd Mayweather in a losing effort on Saturday night in a boxing match. It would mark his boxing debut, but cause a halt to the UFC's 155-pound division that he reigns over.
In McGregor's absence, the UFC has attempted to book interim title fights, but everything from injuries, to weight cutting issues, to Ramadan, to hospitalizations have prevented Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov from locking horns. In place of Khabib, Lee was given the opportunity to compete for the title.
Lee has met great success in the UFC since his debut three years ago at 21. Since then he's scored big finishes over the likes of Michael Chiesa, Francisco Trinaldo, Madomed Mustafaev, Jake Matthews, and James Moontasri on his way to a couple of Performance of the Night bonuses.
However, it was just under two years ago when Lee dropped a quick loss to Leonardo Santos in first-round TKO fashion, and was looking at an impressive, but not championship worthy 4-2 UFC record. Since then, Lee has reeled off five consecutive wins.
The outspoken Lee explained to Fightful how he was able to gain such beaming confidence at only 24-years old. For Lee, he says it's much more of a mindset of a champion than anything else.
“I mean that to (having a tough life) and nothing has been given to me. You know like a lot of these guys, nothing has ever been given to me. I’ve had to work for it all and that’s where this confidence come from, I’m confident because I have been putting in the work. Because win, lose or draw, I’m gonna feel like a champion because I did the work like a champion and nobody is going to take that away from me,” says Lee.
UFC 216 takes place on Saturday, October 7 from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada with Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee headlining. Fightful is providing live coverage of the event, with a post-show podcast to follow.