Kevin Lee will get his first chance to headline an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event, as the rising lightweight contender was recently pegged to face Michael Chiesa in the main event of UFC Fight Night 112 on June 25, 2017 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (details).
It’s a long time coming for Lee, who has been with the promotion since 2014, racking up a rather impressive 8-2 record during that span. So why did it take so long for Lee to get a headlining shot? According to “The Motown Phenom,” it could be due to the fact that UFC finds it hard to try to push an African-American fighter.
He broke it all down during a recent interview on The MMA Hour
“Look, I had these same conversations with UFC, and I’m just letting you know because I’m talking to you right now. But I’ve let them know how I feel, that’s just how I am. I’m not one of these fighters that is going to pussy-foot around. Me and Joe (Silva) have had arguments, he’s called me a whole bunch of names, and I called him a whole bunch of names. But, I understand, the same reason you do it, is the same reason UFC does it, it’s hard to promote a black fighter. They haven’t broken into the African-American market. So, they don’t want to go all in on it because they don’t know if they are going to get their return. It’s a business just like any other. They are not racist, they are not this other shit, they are just about the money. Detroit, Philly, Chicago, St. Louis, they just don’t bring the money in for the UFC to go all in on it, which I understand and is fully respectable. So that could be part of it. And like I said, I will get into a few arguments. It’s probably a mix of everything, you know.”
Lee’s comments came immediately after he ripped into host Ariel Helwani for only having him on the show after getting his big shot, when his previous requests to be a guest on the show were allegedly ignored.
Lee’s gripe stems from what he perceives the media’s preference to focus on fighters who say “dumb shit” instead of the ones who perform inside the Octagon. Case in point, Lee says Mickey Gall and Sage Northcutt have been getting plenty of love from the media, though they don’t exactly have a ton of cage time with the promotion.
Still, Lee says he understands the name of the game and that the media will push the same fighters UFC is trying to market, like Khabib Nurmagomedov, who Lee says is far from the No. 1 contender given the fact that he hasn’t competed frequently (because of this) and only has one big win over Rafael dos Anjos.
Nevertheless, Lee’s comments match up with Tyron Woodley’s recent gripes, as the current welterweight champion went on record saying that he has been by far the worst-treated champion in the history of the promotion, which could be in part based on his skin color.
Agree or disagree?