One huge reason that Lee decided to vacate the lightweight division was due to the alleged politics in the weight class.
“A lot of [the lightweight division] kinda went stagnant, which is a real shame,” Lee said Monday on The MMA Hour. “I mean, it’s always been one of the best divisions in the UFC. There’s just so many ups and so many questions. And part of me was like, this is where I said I wanted to be, and this is where I started and where I’m gonna finish, especially with fighting Khabib. But when I looked at it, like, okay, I’m not going to sit around and wait. It’s too many politics going on. Like you said, Max is now fighting Dustin, Tony’s sitting out — which, I’m sad about that whole situation — and all these other things, and nobody wants to fight, and guys only want these certain fights just to push them up, and Conor’s kinda calling the shots still. And I’m like, you know what, f*ck all of this. I’m mostly worried about me anyway. To me, I’m the top dog. So it’s what’s best for my career and going forward. Those fights are still going to be out there. I still am 100 percent confident I can make 155 again, but we’ll see after. I prefer this fight at 170; 155, they need to get their shit together. That’s all. I think it’ll come together towards the end of this year, but I wasn’t about to sit around and wait for them.”
Lee holds a 10-4-0 record in the UFC and is ranked #5 in the UFC Lightweight Division.
The soon to be welterweight may be a tad bit undersized for the division, but points to fighters like Kevin Lee as to what lighter fighters can do in the weight class.
“I’m about 181 (pounds). I used to get much heavier, but I’ve been about 180, 181 since really the past year or year-and-a-half,” Lee said. “When I look at other guys, maybe [I’ll be on the smaller end of welterweight], but Pettis just showed too, this last Saturday, sometimes that size really doesn’t matter, especially when you’re talking about speed and durability. ... I feel like I can out-technique a lot of these guys. When I see even a lot of their wrestling at 170, a lot of it is very basic. So I feel like technique, speed, and durability will outlast their strength. I’ll let you know after May 18th how it all goes down. I’m kinda figuring sh*t out with you.”
UFC Fight Night Rochester takes place on Saturday, May 18 from the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, New York with Kevin Lee and Rafael Dos Anjos headlining. Fightful is providing live coverage of the event, which streams live on ESPN+.