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Kevin Lee thinks ‘smart’ manager pulled Khabib to keep undefeated record intact

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UFC Fortaleza’s Kevin Lee spoke with Bloody Elbow to talk about his finish in Northern Ireland, his training for Francisco Trinaldo, and goes in on Khabib for pulling out of UFC 209.

UFC lightweight prospect Kevin “The Motown Phenom” Lee has won three straight inside of the Octagon, including back-to-back finishes of Jake Matthews and Magomed Mustafaev. Lee is now slated to square off with the 21-4 veteran Francisco Trinaldo this Saturday night at UFC Fight Night 106 in Fortaleza, Brazil. On location in South America, Kevin Lee caught up with Bloody Elbow to discuss scoring a technical submission in his last fight, his thoughts on his opponent Trinaldo, and the real reason he thinks Khabib Nurmagomedov pulled out of UFC 209.

Early flight to Fortaleza to get acclimated:

“I’ve been here for about five days now. I came out here early. I think I was one of the first guys here, especially one of the first guys from out of town, that’s for sure. I just wanted to give myself that chance to let my body adjust, especially after a long flight. You know, 26 hours of flying, it really messes with the weight. You can feel it in your joints. Today was the first day that I woke up and I actually felt normal. So, I’m glad I got out here early; that’s for damn sure.”

Scoring a second-round technical submission of Magomed Mustafaev at UFC Fight Night 99:

“The fight went how I thought it would go. Mustafaev was expecting me to come out there and power swing with him. The entire time, the gameplan was to wrestle. If a guy is expecting me to do one thing, I’m going to do another. It’s going to be the same thing with Francisco [Trinaldo]. I’m not sure what he’s expecting, but every time he’s expecting me to strike, I’m going to wrestle. Every time he expects me to wrestle, I’m going to strike. That’s one of the things that I do, that very few guys can do. I think I mix it up better than anybody in this sport.”

When we spoke to you before the fight, you called the second round finish:

“You can call me Mystic Motown, haha.”

Was that the first time you have ever choked somebody unconscious?

“Oh no, no. There’s been plenty of times, you know. Fans only get to see us in those 15 minute spurts, which is really like a robbery to the fans, you know, because they don’t get to see all the training and all the wars.”

Did you know that you broke Mustafaev’s arm in that fight, as well?

“I saw that. The Russians, they attacked me after that fight. I had thousands and thousands of Russian fans like, all over my shit. I saw that it was off of one of the takedowns, actually. I’m the best wrestler in this division. On that takedown in particular, it was either post and get your arm broken, or get knocked out. So, I didn’t leave him much of a chance.”

Rustam Khabilov instantly called you out; why didn’t that fight happen?

“I know his manager really well, Ali [Abdel-Aziz]. Everybody was for that fight. They should have made that fight happen. That should have been the fight last weekend at UFC 209. Sean Shelby was with it, I was with it, everybody was with it except Khabilov. You see, he hasn’t even booked a fight yet. I don’t understand how he called me out in December, and I said immediately, yeah let’s do it.”

“Let’s do it for 209. I’ll fight him and Tony [Ferguson] would fight Khabib [Nurmagomedov], and it made more sense. You already had the Russian Dagestanis coming out to watch Khabib anyway. It really would have saved the card. They could put us on the main card and all those Russian fans, when Khabib fell out, could have looked forward to me whooping the shit out of Khabilov. He bitched out just as much as Khabib bitched out. I don’t know what’s up with him. He ain’t said nothing. When they came to him with the fight, he just said no. He didn’t give a reason.”

Facing the 21-4 Francisco Trinaldo in Fortaleza this Saturday:

“It’s a very tough fight because he’s very smart. He’s a very experienced fighter and in fighting, experience goes a long way. He can kind of do a little bit of everything, but his biggest asset is that he knows how to win rounds. He knows when to pick and choose his spots. He’s older, he doesn’t rely on strength, or he doesn’t rely on speed, or even his technique. He relies on his experience, which can be a huge factor in a fight, especially down here in Brazil. I got to make sure the rounds aren’t close, and I’m blowing him out of the water.”

Which weapons are you watching out for?

“He’s got the basic southpaw weapons; left straight, left kick. He does a lot of things basic, but like I said, he’s good at mixing it up, and he’s good at being able to feed off energy. So, we’ll see how the fight goes. This will be one of the ones that’ll really boost my experience level, you know. Fighting a guy that’s experienced will really show how well I’ve grown, and only make me grow even more.”

Training for Trinaldo:

“I brought out 3 Russians to help me prepare for Mustafaev. I brought out 4 southpaws this time for about 5 or 6 good, hard sparring sessions. So, I’ve brought out some guys that move very much like Francisco. He’s older, so it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks … He’s got about 14, 15 UFC fights, so I’ve got a lot of film to study on him, and I think I know what to expect come fight night. I think we brought out the right training partners for that. I don’t think he’s going to come out with anything new.”


“This fight, right now, will put me in the top 10; that’s for sure. I kind of already got my year planned out. The UFC’s coming to Detroit later this year in November, December. I’ll probably end up fighting in July, fighting a top 5 guy. We might even pull for Khabib, if Khabib don’t bitch out even further. I’ll get Khabib, maybe, in July and then in December, then we get a #1 contender match. That’s what I’m really looking forward to, baby!”

Khabib Nurmagomedov pulling out of the Tony Ferguson fight at UFC 209:

“I think he’s got a really smart manager. I know Ali really well. He’s smart; they’re trying to keep that ‘0’ intact. That’s all they’re looking forward to. To me, there’s no other reason. It was like 4:00 A.M. or something when they took him to the hospital. If that’s the case, then he cut weight the night before, and woke up and wasn’t feeling good, or had kidney malfunction or something. Which means that he’s just being unprofessional, which I can’t see why somebody at this level would be unprofessional.”

“You know, I’m 178 pounds right now, and on Friday morning when I step on that scale, I’ll be 156 pounds. I know how to cut weight with the best of them. If he’s going to the hospital for it, that means he’s not doing something right. Not only is he not fighting very frequently, he hasn’t had to cut that weight very frequently. So, they’re obviously not doing something right.”

“So, I don’t think that’s the case. I think his management is smart, and they pulled him out of the fight. If it was Conor [McGregor] that he was fighting, ain’t no way in hell he would have went to the hospital. If it would have went to the UFC doctor, ain’t no way they would have sent him to the hospital. So, I think he bitched out of the fight, and it’s kind of disappointing because he let down his fans. He had a lot of Russians out there in Vegas, and he let them down. Him and Khabilov both, they ruined that card and it’s a shame.”

Losing the UFC 209 co-main was a major blow, but maybe Khabib did want to fight?

“It’s disrespectful. Maybe he did have something going on. Maybe he did have something wrong, but when it’s this big, when it gets to that level, yeah I can understand self preservation. You don’t want that loss, but be a man, you know? You got to go out there. Okay, if you don’t win, you don’t win. You dust yourself off, you get better, you learn from it. He’s just trying to hold on to that ‘0.’ That’s the only way I see it.”

“Maybe his weight cut wasn’t the greatest; so the f–k what? I have bad weight cuts all the time; so the f—k what? You get up. You fight. I also don’t have thousands of Russians flying halfway across the world to see me fight, and I still show up. That’s just being a man, and that’s being a man of your word. If you sign the contract, if you say you’re going to show up, to me, you show up. You don’t pull out the day before. That’s for damn sure.”

Watch the 14-2 lightweight prospect Kevin Lee take on the #11 Francisco Trinaldo at UFC Fight Night 106 on March 11, 2017. The Exclusive Fight Pass Prelims start at 7:00 P.M. EST. The Prelims will begin at 8:00 PM EST on FOX Sports 1 and will spill over into the main card at 10:00 P.M. EST. Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for all of you MMA coverage including interviews, analysis, results, and more.

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