Saturday, UFC lightweight Kevin Lee returns to the cage for the first time since an interim title loss to Tony Ferguson this past October.
Given the chance, Lee (16-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) would’ve returned sooner. When he found out that Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC) dropped out of a fourth scheduled fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov (26-0 MMA, 10-0 UFC) at UFC 223, he was ready to accept the short-notice booking.
“The only reason I think they didn’t offer me that fight is because they knew hands down, before they even said it, I would have said, ‘Yes, I’m on my way,’ Lee told reporters in a recent interview held at the UFC’s Performance Institute in Las Vegas. “I weighed lower than Max (Holloway) did when they offered Max the fight.
“I think that would have been the fight to make, but it’s all in good time.”
Lee, of course, is already booked for a fight with top-notch striker Edson Barboza (19-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 128, which takes place Saturday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City and airs live on FS1. Pulling him from the bout would’ve created another headache for the promotion, and it didn’t need any more of those in the run up to UFC 223.
So rather than step in as the savior of a pay-per-view card, Lee watched from the sidelines as the chaos unfolded in New York.
As it turned out, Holloway’s (19-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC) shot at UFC lightweight gold wasn’t meant to be. Concerned over his massive weight cut, the New York State Athletic Commission ruled him out of the title bout. In his place went Al Iaquinta (13-4-1 MMA, 8-3 UFC) , who’d been scheduled to face Paul Felder on the card.
“Iaquinta, he said a couple weeks ago that he didn’t want to fight Khabib,” he said. “It showed during the fight. He didn’t show up to fight, he didn’t show up to win. He just showed up to get his paycheck and not get his ass whooped.”
Despite that, Lee said, Iaquinta managed to expose Nurmagomedov’s flaws over the five-round fight.
“You had so many people shocked to see holes in Khabib’s game,” he said. “I’ve been calling out Khabib for two, three years now. I’ve been seeing them holes. I said that Iaquinta was going to show him, but the man just didn’t stand much of a chance.
“Me and Iaquinta have had our little back and forth, (and) I don’t really like him personally too much. But the man, he can fight. But when you’re showing up for a three round fight against a muay Thai fighter, how much wrestling did he do? The man was selling homes for like a year, year and a half. He’s not even a pro fighter. He had a busted knee and all this and still showed holes in the man’s game.
“I want that Khabib fight. I’ve been calling for it for a long time. I feel like I’m going to get a better version of Edson Barboza that fought Khabib a couple months ago. I’m going to whoop this boy even worse then Khabib did, and then from there we can make a fight happen.”
Lee said when he meets Nurmagomedov, the undefeated champ won’t be able to rely on the tools that have thus far made him an impossible challenge.
“He was trying the same takedown over and over again,” Lee said of Nurmagomedov. “The man don’t have a lot of variety in his game. He’s the same as who beat (Rafael) dos Anjos a few years ago. He’s that exact same fighter. I think once you stop evolving in this game then guys like me are going to catch up to you.
“Once I get my hands on him that’s really going to show. There was a little bit of frustration watching that fight because I wanted to be the one to expose those holes and I want to be the one to give him that one on his record. But as soon as that fight’s over I got back on what I got to do and that’s go out there and whooping on Edson.”
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Kevin Lee promises to expose Khabib Nurmagomedov after he whoops Edson Barboza