With his Welterweight debut now just days, Kevin Lee seems already uplifted by his much anticipated move to 170lbs.
Taking on Rafael dos Anjos (28-11) in the main event at this weekend’s UFC Fight Night Rochester, ‘The Motown Phenom’ is already encouraged by his decision. “I’m in a little bit better mood, you can probably tell right out the gate. You look back at the old (interviews), I’m about the same weight, but I know I got that big cut ahead of me, which is really unnecessary,” Lee told reporters at his week’s open workouts.
“I feel like the UFC is slowly taking steps in the right direction on getting rid of this weight cutting. This sport is dangerous enough as it is. It doesn’t make any sense that we’ve got to dehydrate ourselves and put our health at risk and not give the fans and folks the fight that they should get. I feel like that’s what I’m going to give them this week with not having to fight the scale before getting in there and having to fight somebody like dos Anjos, and it’s only going to be a benefit.”
After losing his last outing against Al Iaquinta, Lee (17-4) suddenly feels at somewhat of a crossroads. Either he’s at the start of a new career chapter or he’ll be sent back to the drawing board by dos Anjos. Fortunately, Lee’s focus is no longer skewed. “I was mostly happy that I get to focus 100 percent on dos Anjos. He’s the first former world champion that I’m going up against. So he got my full, undivided attention, and I give him that respect, too,” Lee said.
“Going against somebody like him, you’ve got to be dialed in at all times. It did help not having to think about, ‘Oh, am I going to make it?’ or ‘Oh, I have to take these extra steps in order to kill myself to make it.’ That definitely helped and I think it’s going to shine through.”
Regardless of weight class, Lee’s world title aspirations remain unmoved and as a result, he admires dos Anjos’ Lightweight feat. “He’s a former world champion, and you really can’t take that away from him. He’s going to be that until the day he dies and just to have that accolade next to him, it just shows what kind of heart he got just to get to the top. I know, even though he might have slipped up in his last couple fights, a guy like that is just going to out there and use that experience to get better. He’s like a caged animal.
When you got the lion backed up, he’s more dangerous. So I’m expecting a very, very dangerous dos Anjos. He’s very, very aggressive. He’s going to come forward, he’s going to get in my face, but that’s the type of fight that I want. I haven’t gave the UFC and the people that grew up in this sport that real barn burner of a fight where I’m bloody, and the guy is bloody, and it’s just a real drag-em-out fight. I think dos Anjos might give it to me. So every day I get a little more excited about that.”
As Lee mentioned, dos Anjos has somewhat struggled as of late, dropping decisions to Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington respectively. He remains 3rd in the Weltweight rankings though and as a result, this fight is an immense starting point for Lee. “There’s a lot of good options at 170. There’s a lot of good fights to be had after this one. You’ve got (Ben) Askren, you’ve got Colby (Covington), you’ve got Kamaru Usman who I’m really chasing for. All them right there.
Then when you add in guys like (Anthony) Pettis, Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal – it’s a lot of talent up here, and it’s a lot to entice me to get to stay. Especially with the way things have been going this week. I’m kinda liking it.”
Fightful will have live coverage for Lee’s fight with dos Anjos as well as a post-show podcast as well. The event airs live on ESPN+.