Earmarking a return to the Octagon following a pair of ACL tears last year, one-time interim lightweight title challenger, Kevin Lee is hoping to score a walk this summer — with sights set on running back an October 2017 matchup with former interim gold holder, Tony Ferguson.
Once tipped for eventual championship success in the promotion’s lightweight shark tank, the 28-year-old has faltered in three of his last four Octagon appearances. The Detriot native headlined UFC Fight Night Brasilia in March of last year, tipping the 155-pound scales on his way to a third round guillotine loss to the streaking Charles Oliveira.
Briefly returning to the winner’s enclosure the November prior at UFC 244, Lee launched a highlight-reel high-kick knockout of Gregor Gillespie, following an arm-triangle loss to former lightweight best, Rafael dos Anjos in a welterweight matchup — after a second career loss to Al Iaquinta.
Now under the tutelage of Firas Zahabi at Tristar MMA in Quebec, Lee saw his 2020 schedule shelved following his loss to Oliveira in Brazil, suffering an ACL tear. Following successful surgery to repair the tear, Lee would suffer a tear in his other ACL three months after the initial injury.
Hoping to begin a training camp in the next couple of months, Lee spoke with MMA Junkie — detailing how he hopes to be thrown straight back into the deep end, in the form of a re-run against former-foe, Ferguson.
“That’s what they do in boxing — you ease your way back in. But the way I’m feeling, I don’t think it’s necessary,” Lee said. “I’m going to fight Tony Ferguson. I think that fight makes sense from all angles. I don’t see anybody else that’s out there for him to fight.”
“It just makes sense and it puts us back where it should be,” Lee explained. “A fight with me and him is going to kind of show one of us has to win, one of us is going to have to leave. So that’s a fight that interests me this summer. We’ll see what he talking about on his end, but he’s number one in my book.”
Oxnard native, Ferguson has endured a recent skid himself of late. Clashing with Justin Gaethje on short-notice at UFC 249 in May last, the former interim champion missed the opportunity to become the first two-time interim gold holder in promotional history — dropping his twelve-fight undefeated streak with a fifth round knockout after a brutal beating.
Returning at UFC 256 in December, Ferguson co-headlined the event against common-opposition, the previously noted, Oliveira — dropping another one-sided loss, this time via a unanimous decision.
Dominating the Californian both on the feet and in the grappling exchanges, Oliveira almost locked up a buzzer-beating armbar in the first frame, massively hyperextending Ferguson’s left arm.
Ferguson turned 37-years-old earlier this month, however, Lee claims the veteran has one more good run left in him, but he wants to be the one to prevent that run from even gathering pace.
“I think he’s going to dig deep in the next one, for sure,” Lee said. “That’s why I want to get him next. I think he’s probably got one more good run in him, one more good push in him, so I want to be the one to get him at his best again and shut that down.”
“He’s like 36, 37-years-old, but then you see a Lebron James who’s still out there still ballin’ — 36 is different these days,” Lee said. “It’s not the same. So I think he might have one good push in him left. That’s why that fight interests me. If I really thought he was just on the down and he was just never going to come back, then I would overlook him. But I think he’s got one more in him. I’d be down for that one, for sure.”
Headlining UFC 216 in an interim title matchup, Lee suffered a third round triangle defeat to Ferguson, despite showing promise early on, mounting the 10th. Planet Jiu-Jitsu black belt and laying down punishing ground strikes. The submission loss snapped a five-fight winning streak for the Michigan native.