If #7 ranked UFC lightweight fighter Kevin Lee (16-4), would have known that just six months after his loss to Tony Ferguson for the UFC lightweight title that his his name would be one of about five being tossed around to face Khabib Nurmagomedov two weeks ago for a title shot again at UFC 223, you might have had to convince him that he wasn’t dreaming. But alas, that was the situation and he did not end up getting that fight and will go on as scheduled to face kickboxer extraordinaire, Edson Barboza (19-5) in the main event this Saturday night at UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs Lee in Atlantic City, N.J. “It was a little frustrating to sit back and watch it,” said Lee referring to all the hype around that weekend’s fight card. “But as soon as that fight was over it was right back to Edson Barboza.”
Before the Ferguson fight last October, Lee was riding a five fight win streak and after that loss was going to take some time off not returning to the cage until sometime this summer, but he felt like this was the right time to make his return to the octagon. “It took me a minute and I actually said I didn’t want to come back until July,” said Lee. But once I got into it and started moving around started feeling good physically again, especially after the staph infection, I knew I needed to get back in there.”
On the other side of the cage will be Edson Barboza, someone who is no stranger to the limelight and has impressively taken home three Fight of the Night and Performance bonuses in his last six fights. “They offered me a couple other fights but I wanted the biggest challenge,” said Lee. “Edson is going to be a ball of fire and is going to try to take my head off and I’ve got to be on my p’s and q’s the whole time.”
Having just come off a title fight and being ranked in the top ten in the lightweight division for the UFC means that no fight is easy anymore for Lee and that is exactly how he wants it. “I’m not somebody who sits back and wants the easy fight and just dip my toes in the water,” explained Lee. “I want to get back in there with one of the best in the division. The man (Barboza) has never lost two in a row and he’s going to come out hot and I’m expecting that.”
Fighting out of Las Vegas, NV at Xtreme Couture, Lee has never lost sight of his Detroit roots and looks forward to one day bringing some gold home to the Motor City. “I never forgot where I came from. It’s always in me and its what’s really shaped me as a person and a fighter growing up in those type of situations, said Lee. “We breed a different breed of people. I’m excited to be the next guy to put on for my city put on for Detroit and I can’t wait to go home and hold up that twelve pounds of gold.”
But before he can do that he has to get through Barboza on Saturday night and show himself and all those watching that he will not be one of those fighters that gets one title shot, loses and fades into the background. “I’m excited to go out their and show my growth and I feel like in that last fight I really beat myself and I promised myself that I would never let that happen again,” explained Lee. I’m excited to go out there, show the approach, be smarter, be stronger mentality, and put on a good show. Whatever he gives is where I’ll take it.”
Kevin Lee faces Edson Barboza in the main event of UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs Lee this Saturday night LIVE on FS1. 10pm ET/7pm PT
Photo credit: Getty Images/Zuffa, LLC.