Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) interim Lightweight title contender, Kevin Lee, has been released by the world’d leading mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion.
MMA Fighting confirmed the news with UFC officials, marking an end to Lee’s eight years with the promotion where he went 11-7 inside the Octagon, earning three “Performance of the Night” bonuses.
Lee started off strong in the UFC, going 9-2 over his first three years. But, a 2017 loss to Tony Ferguson in a fight for the UFC interim belt — along with the suicide of his coach Robert Follis — marked a downturn in “The Motown Phenom’s” career. Lee struggled to make 155 pounds, but was unable to deal with the size of Welterweight competition. Impressive wins over Edson Barboza and Gregor Gillespie were interspersed with losses to Al Iaquinta, Rafael dos Anjos, Charles Oliveira, and most recently, Daniel Rodriguez.
No shame in losing to any of those killers, but too many “Ls” stacked together never bodes well for UFC fighters.
Kevin Lee fight week— Connoisseur of Combat (@ConOfCombat) March 10, 2020
Never forget he knocked out Gillespie right under the ad that said hospital pic.twitter.com/SJUYmLTK9N
Between the Oliveira and Rodriguez fights, Lee also had the misfortune of blowing out the ACLs in both of his knees, taking him out of action for 1.5 years. Following the Rodriguez fight, he failed a United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) test for amphetamine and was suspended for six months (Lee claims it was Adderall). That may have been the tipping point for UFC releasing him.
We imagine his relatively high paycheck (high compared to all the “Contender Series” guys) may have played a factor as well. Lee’s last disclosed paycheck was $84,000 to show, $84,000 to win.
Here’s to hoping Lee finds free agency treating him well. There’s Bellator, ONE, PFL or even something like RIZIN or Eagles FC. Let’s not forget Triller is out there paying former UFC fighters mid-six figures for fights, too. At just 29 years of age, there’s still hope that Lee could mature into the champion many thought he’d become during his early UFC days.