Kevin Lee is trying to escape mixed martial arts (MMA) limbo in early 2023.
The “Mo-Town Phenom” returned to the win column in 2022 with one fight, defeating fellow Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) veteran, Diego Sanchez, via unanimous decision in their Eagle Fighting Championship debuts (watch highlights). Since then, the Russia-based promotion has returned home with no sight of a United States return anytime soon.
Lee is currently still an Eagle FC fighter, but isn’t exclusive and all signs are now pointing to him joining Professional Fighters League (PFL) after signing with a notable MMA management company, Dominance MMA. The promotion has already made waves this year, signing Jake Paul to a unique deal, and should Lee get his way, he’d help the boxing sensation get his feet wet in the cage.
“If Jake Paul is serious about [MMA] and if he really wants to fight,” Paul told TMZ Sports. “If he wants to have that respect, he wants to have that attention, he wants people to take him seriously, he’s going to have to fight a serious fighter.
“He’s going to have somebody for real, for real,” he concluded. “I’m the best option for that. I’m in my prime. I’ve fought the whose-who of MMA. I’ve fought six different world champions.”
Lee, 30, enjoyed a solid seven-year run with UFC before being released on the heels of back-to-back losses against Charles Oliveira and Daniel Rodriguez. The one-time interim Lightweight title challenger recently voiced his openness to providing Khamzat Chimaev with an opponent. Ultimately, any other non-spectacular return for Lee isn’t worth it.
“[A UFC return] has been floated out there a few times and I have thought about it, but I’m not putting no energy towards it, to be honest with you,” Lee told ESPN. “I feel like there’s so many opportunities in this sport. There’s a big opportunity now with PFL. They just signed Jake Paul, they’re making a lot of waves outside the fighting realm, outside of the bubble that UFC has created.
“I would almost be hurting my leverage if I was to straight-up go back to the UFC right now,” he added. “I’m kinda interested, but it would have to be the right offer, the right fight, something other than just to say I’m a UFC fighter. $1 million sounds a whole lot better.”