UFC Vegas 35: Kevin Lee Explains Why He Is Moving Up To Welterweight

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Kevin Lee, UFC Rochester UFC 249
Kevin Lee Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

Former UFC interim lightweight title challenger Kevin Lee is returning to welterweight.

After 17 months away from the octagon, Lee (18-6) returns on August 28, having recovered from two ACL surgeries on each leg. While he is currently ranked No. 11 in the lightweight rankings, he is returning to the welterweight division, in which he tried a test run in 2019. Unfortunately, he wound up submitted by Rafael Dos Anjos during that go-round.

Lee subsequently returned to lightweight and went 1-1, most recently losing to current champion Charles Oliveira. However in that fight, Lee missed weight for the second time in his UFC career. Lee has always stated he’s had trouble with his weight, and his perfect weight class would be 165 lbs. However, UFC President Dana White has said that there is no plan to create that division.

Nevertheless, Lee is returning to welterweight again and will fight Daniel Rodriguez.

In an interview with Submission Radio, Lee gave a couple of reasons when explaining why he chose to make welterweight his home.

“One was after I had seen Karamu Usman in his last fight, I realized he’s definitely the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, especially now that Khabib [Nurmagomedov] is retired. I’ve always gone after the biggest challenges; you know, I think martial arts is about pushing yourself. So, that gave me a lot of like ‘okay, there is a lot of competition up there.’ Before welterweight was kind of in this stand-still when Tyron [Woodley] was the champ and everyone played politics in order to get up there. Now that you’ve got a serious competitor, that gave me a little bit of motivation,” Lee said.

Lee continued and talked about lifting weights for the first time in his career.

“It was the weight lifting. Coming off of these surgeries, I had done a lot of weight training on my legs, and with that, I trained my upper body too, which I had never done in my career. I’ve never done it since I was in college— 18, 19-years old, so the weight lifting put on the size as muscle. When I compared it with other people in the UFC, I noticed my numbers were the exact same as some of these welterweights, so it was time to stop fighting and go ahead and make that move,” Lee said.

“The Motown Phenom,” said there are two names he would come back to the lightweight division for, Oliveria and Nurmagomedov. So unless it’s those two fighters, Lee will be remaining at welterweight.

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