Exclusive: Kevin Lee Reveals Just Why He’s Coming Out Of Retirement

Lee goes over his last fight, potential opponents, and the real reason behind why he's coming back to MMA.

Kevin Lee 2023
(via @motownphenom - Instagram)

Six months is all Kevin Lee needed to know he wasn’t done fighting.

The former UFC title challenger announced his retirement after his highly-anticipated return to the promotion last year. Lee made the decision after a first-round submission loss to Rinat Fakhretdinov in June, but it wouldn’t stick for long.

On Jan. 31, Lee told the world he was coming back to the sport. 

‘She Said That The Smile In My Soul Is Gone…’

Lee explains the reason behind why he’s putting on the gloves again.

“It’s a long time coming,” Lee told Middle Easy. “I probably been thinking about it for the last 2 months or so. The one that really kinda pushed me over the edge was a conversation that I had with my mom. She said that the smile in my soul is gone. I remember repeating it back to her to to make sure I heard it right. I was like, ‘man, that’s deep’.

“My takeaway from it was just that I needed to fight again. It had already kinda been, like, in my mind. It had already been something that I keep being driven to. When she said that, I was like, okay, what am I gonna do? I’m 31 now. If I’m gonna make a run, now is the time, and I don’t wanna live with no regrets.

“I really need to see this thing through,” Lee added. “I need to see my life through and feel good for myself.”

Life After Surgery

Injuries play a big part in the fight game and Lee can attest to that. Coming off his latest knee surgery, the up and moving again ‘Motown Phenom’ is ready to chase his dreams inside the Octagon.

“I kinda almost forgot what it’s like to to be stable and be able to move around,” Lee said of his health. “So, I’m four months removed from my last knee surgery. Part of that was the the reason, the injuries just started to add up to just so much. Now that I got a son, I’m a father now, I start thinking a little bit further down the line and thinking that I gotta keep my body together for when my son gets older.

“But, as I let that sit for a little bit and I kinda digested it more and and I just thought about it and I’m like, there’s bigger lessons that I need to teach them, and one is to not be afraid of the consequences, to prepare as best as I can. I’m not gonna let the the fear kinda freeze me and make me too afraid to to go out there and actually chase my dreams.”

‘It Was A Terrible Decision’

Lee dives into his last fight with Rinat Fakhretdinov which made him question his career as a whole. It’s safe to say the UFC veteran regrets taking the matchup to begin with.

“It was a dumb fight. It was stupid. I knew my knee was torn to shreds the entire time. It was the worst training camp that I ever had. I couldn’t even spar or or go hard in the training camp at all. That fight was purely just out of pride and ego of of me being cut from the UFC and not on the terms that I would have liked. Then, me kinda getting this opportunity and let my pride take over and say that I’ll do it.

“In hindsight, it was a terrible decision,” Lee said. 

Going Back To Lightweight

Lee has spent most of his UFC career fighting at lightweight. Later into his run, he’d give the welterweight division a try for a few fights where he went without a win. He did, however, beat TUF 1 winner Diego Sanchez in a one-off bout at 165lbs.

Making a comeback, Lee tells why he’s headed to lightweight. 

“At the end of the day, we gotta cut weight,” Lee explained. “If you wanna compete, you’re gonna have to cut the weight and that’s what it is for me. I can make the weight. That’s where my where most of my success comes from. That’s what my frame is built for.

“Me trying to pack on the pound and go to 170, not only is it bad for my joints and bad for my knees, it made me slower and it was an unsuccessful. I’m glad that I did it to to know that what would happen, but, yeah, I’m kinda happy to to leave that behind me.”

‘It’s Gonna Be A Process’ To Return

While he did confirm his return a week ago, that doesn’t mean Lee is stepping into the cage right away. The 31 year-old will take his time as it’s his comeback story, after all.

“This is gonna be a slow thing. I made the announcement early because I feel like I gotta hold myself accountable to say that. But, at the same time, it’s gonna be a process. I know I’m looking at the summertime at least… That’s something that we’re gonna start looking at in maybe like, March, April. Start looking at at contracts and and then from there, start looking at opponents after that.”

Lee Throws Out Potential Opponents

Who could welcome back Kevin Lee in his return? Well, that might be too early to tell, but Lee does have a few names in mind for when the time comes.

“There’s a couple great fights,” Lee said of potential opponents. “Tony Ferguson, maybe the winner or loser of of Conor [McGregor and [Michael Chandler. There’s a couple. I’m honestly not focused too much on opponents right now. I’ve got a long road ahead of me as far as getting for 1, getting getting healthy, two, getting into shape, three, signing the contract, and then maybe we can look at location and then talk about opponents. So, it’s far down the road for me to be thinking about opponents right now.”

Lee’s Says He’s Not Coming Out Of Retirement For The Money

MMA retirements rarely stay like that. When fighters decide to scratch the itch to scrap once again, fans usually think it’s all about the money. For Lee, this doesn’t seem to be the motivation. 

“You can make a lot more money in fighting than anything else, I will give it that,” Lee continued. “There’s a reason Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor are two of the highest-paid stars that there is. But, I mean, I had money already. That ain’t what what’s making me kinda make the decision. That’s not what’s doing it for me.

“I thought that making money doing something else would take this away from me. But obviously, it ain’t for the money. Like, if it was for the money, there’s better ways to make money or easier ways to make money. This is one of the hardest craziest things to do and for some reason, I keep wanting to do it. So, that’s where I am with it. Could I make money doing something else? Yeah, but I don’t know. I kinda just like this and I enjoy it and I can make more money doing this. So, why not?”

Published on February 6, 2024 at 5:09 pm
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