Kevin Lee kicked off his return to lightweight in 2019 with a bang, knocking out the extremely tough Gregor Gillespie in the first round with a thunderous head kick. The murderer’s row of opponents continued with Charles Oliveira in Brazil, and while Lee looked good in a back and forth war with “Do Bronx” at UFC Brasilia, the fight ended in the third round with Oliveira catching Lee in a guillotine choke that had “The Motown Phenom” tapping (and then denying he tapped).
Lee didn’t address the strange ending to his fight when speaking to a small scrum of reporters after the event, but he did discuss why he thought things went sideways for him.
”Felt like the fight was going good, I just got choked,” he said. “That’s all, I can’t really put it on nothing else but that. The first two rounds I felt like I stuck to the gameplan, and then I sat in the corner in the third and told em I was gonna switch up the gameplan. And looking back on it, I abandoned it and that was the wrong move. I tried to take control of the fight instead of just letting the fight happen. So ... I choked myself out.”
Lee admitted he was unhappy with the way everything was going from the moment he landed in Brazil to the weigh-ins where he missed the lightweight limit by two and a half pounds.
”It was very unprofessional on my part, I will say that,” he said. “I could have approached it a whole lot better. I maybe should have given myself more time to prepare for this fight.”
”I didn’t bring a dietitian down,” Lee continued. “I thought the UFC was going to cover that a little bit more, they did in my last fight. So it was more unprofessional on my part and I can’t do nothing but apologize and blame myself. And the way the weight cut went, it carried over into the fight, it definitely didn’t help. I think lightweight’s my home, I just gotta fine tune a couple of things. But I’m going to take a long time. I kind of rushed into this fight. It’ll probably be a good minute before you see me again.”
Pressed on why he might take a break and for how long, a deflated Lee suggested it might be years before we see him fight again.
”I think I gotta evaluate some things,” he said. “I feel like my camp was great, my coaches told me all the right things to do. I abandoned it. It’s all on me on this one. So it’s gonna be ... maybe a few years or so.”
As for what he planned to work on in that time?
”A lot more jiujitsu, for sure,” Lee said. “I keep losing these fights by choke, and these guys ain’t even choking me, it’s me choking myself, so ... I gotta figure out why.”
Maybe it’s just the insane caliber of opponents he’s facing? Lee’s three career loses via choke come care of Tony Ferguson, Rafael dos Anjos, and now a surging Charles Oliveira (this win over Lee extends Oliveira’s current win streak to 7). Lee undoubtedly needs a vacation to process this latest loss, but let’s hope it’s not a break that lasts years. Win or lose, “The Motown Phenom” is always entertaining, and always right there on the edge of victory even against the toughest competition.