Ahead of his return to the welterweight division in July, former interim UFC lightweight title challenger, Kevin Lee has claimed that a future pairing against current division kingpin, Kamaru Usman needs to happen eventually.
Featuring at UFC 264 beneath a headlining tilt between former interim lightweight champion, Dustin Poirier and former two-weight champion, Conor McGregor, Lee makes his return to the 170lbs ranks ahead of a projected lengthy stay, as he takes on the surging undefeated grappler, Sean Brady.
The return will mark Lee’s first appearance since a headlining tilt against now-undisputed lightweight champion, Charles Oliveira at UFC Fight Night Brasilia in March of last year where he suffered an eventual third round guillotine choke loss.
Following the bout, Lee revealed that he had suffered a torn ACL and would be spending a significant period on the sidelines, and following successful surgery, unfortunately, suffered an ACL tear in his other leg — resulting in an even longer period of inactivity.
Announcing plans to return at the welterweight limit, Lee had initially called for the likes of former division champion, Robbie Lawler or the polarizing, Mike Perry, however, has since been paired with Roufusport grappling standout, Brady for a pay-per-view showcase this summer.
Speaking with The Schmo recently, Lee revealed he watched closely as the above-mentioned, Usman stopped two-time title challenger, Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261 in April, and ever since, believes he can eventually share the Octagon with the dominant Auchi gold holder.
“After (Kamaru Usman) beat (Jorge) Masvidal the way he beat him (by knockout), I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s me.I’m big too.’” Lee said. “This is the first time that I’ve ever lifted (weights), really ever since college, so it’s been over 10 years since I’ve ever lifted weights. But to come back off the knee surgeries, I’ve been doing a lot of weight lifting, and I’m moving around (with) middleweights and stuff, so I’m ready.“
“I’m already at the top of the (welterweight) division,” Lee continued. “Me and Kamaru (Usman) have locked eyes before, and I feel like that’s a match that needs to be made eventually. But for this one, I’m taking Sean Brady’s spot, He’s top 15, but he hasn’t fought anybody yet. He’s still young in his career. I mean, we’re the same age, but I’ve kind of done everything that’s he’s done, twice almost. His biggest win is over Jake Matthews — I beat him five years ago. It took me a round to do it, it took him three rounds, so I’m here to take his spot.“
Prior to his submission defeat to Oliveira, where he tipped the lightweight scales at 158.5lbs, Lee earned Performance of the Night accolades via a stunning first round high-kick knockout over the then-undefeated, Gregor Gillespie at UFC 244 in November of 2019 at Madison Square Garden — snapping a two-fight slide.