Kevin Lee will be a lightweight until the UFC adds a new division to its roster.
“The Motown Phenom” plans to remain at 155 pounds so long as the promotion doesn’t introduce the 165-pound weight class. But if that does happen, Lee will move up 10 pounds in no time.
Fans questioned whether Lee would opt to become a welterweight after missing weight ahead of his dominant win over Edson Barboza at UFC Fight Night 128 last month, but the current top contender has no intention of doing so. If it’s only between lightweight and welterweight, Lee believes he’s better suited to the lighter division.
“This is my division, this is the best division in the UFC, and it’s where the biggest fights are. And I can still make the weight,” Lee told BloodyElbow.com. “This was just a mistiming thing; I don’t put it on nobody else. I’m not the type of dude that makes excuses. But real fighters really understand what I’m saying when I say it was a timing issue.”
In May 2017, the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) began recognizing the 165-pound division, as well as three other new weight classes, as part of a ground-breaking 10-point plan. No prominent MMA promotion in North America has actually adopted the new division as of yet, though.
UFC president Dana White is not in favor of the 165-pound division. He believes fighters who compete at 170 pounds would simply try to cut even more weight, and that adding more weight classes is not the solution to extreme weight cutting.
Despite that, Lee, who nearly missed weight ahead of an interim title fight against Tony Ferguson last October, is in full support of the new division. He said adding it to the UFC would be very important when it comes to the health and safety of fighters who struggle to cut down to 155 pounds.
“There’s a reason why the athletic commissions approved it,” Lee said. “Paul Felder, a couple minutes before I stepped on the scale, he stepped on the scale and he’s 190. Edson is just as big as me. (UFC champ) Khabib (Nurmagomedov) has documented kidney failure and is still trying to make 155 from 190.
“They’re waiting on me to die. I’m pushing for it because that’s what needs to be done.”
One may argue that adding a division between 155 and 170 pounds just adds more clutter to the list of UFC champions, but Lee doesn’t see why that would be an issue when an interim welterweight title bout is booked for next month’s UFC 225. Once Rafael dos Anjos vs. Colby Covington occurs, three fighters between 155 and 170 pounds will hold belts. Instead of continuously putting on interim title bouts, the UFC should introduce a new weight class, Lee said.
“They can go ahead and after this interim title fight, scrap [the division], and make a 175-pound division. The (interim) champ vs. Tyron Woodley at 175,” Lee said. “And then they go ahead and make a 165 division. There’s already three, four titles floating around that area, anyway. Why not just add an extra weight class and crown someone else the champion?
“They’re making another title in the same weight division, so instead of just having three random titles, why not just have three weight classes with three rightful champions?”
White doesn’t like the idea, but Lee believes 165 pounds in the UFC is inevitable.
“I think it’s bound to happen,” he said. “It’s already been approved; we’re just waiting on logistics. And in the mean time, I’m gonna still out there and do my job, make weight, and whoop ass.”