After an unsuccessful move up to welterweight that resulted in his second-straight loss, Kevin Lee knew that changes had to be made. Making a move to Tristar Gym is the start of Lee’s attempt at regaining momentum in the UFC.
The decision comes after a world tour of sorts for the 26-year-old fighter.
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“I just got done doing this crazy seven-week tour of going around to different camps,” Lee said in his appearance on Submission Radio. “I went to LA, I went to Phoenix, I went to Denver, I went to Montreal, and I’m back in Vegas now.”
Lee embarked on the search hoping to connect with a coach to help fill the void left by the passing of Robert Follis.
“(I went) to try and find that guy out there, that somebody who would really speak to me. And to be honest, I feel like I did in Montreal with Tristar and Firas Zahabi,” Lee said. “Just having him and being around him and getting to pick his brain and his mind and seeing how it works, I feel like that’s what I’ve been missing. I know that’s what I’ve been missing a little bit ever since my coach Robert Follis passed, I haven’t had that guy to really guide me and show me the correct way of what to do, and I’ve just been kind of trying to listen to myself and figure I got it enough.”
Of course, training at Tristar means Lee will be heading to Georges St-Pierre’s backyard. In the past, “The Motown Phenom” called for a fight against him, but St-Pierre shrugged it off when Lee came to visit the gym.
“He understands it. We’re martial artists, we’re competitors,” Lee said. “If I’m not trying to push myself to the limit and I’m not trying to fight the best that’s out there, then I feel like he wouldn’t understand me as much. I think he’s got the same kind of fire in him.”
The former welterweight king served as Lee’s tour guide around Montreal, and, soon enough, he’ll be helping Lee out inside the gym as well.
“He’s going to train with me a lot, so I feel like he’ll be another one of those great minds that I can kind of pick,” Lee said. “And seeing what makes him tick and what made him such a great champion, those are the things that I think will boost me to the next level.”
Now that he’s found a place, Lee will need time to settle in before returning to the Octagon. He is keeping his eye on the developments in both the lightweight and welterweight divisions though.
Lee says that Ben Askren is “probably the easiest” fight for him at 170 pounds. He also would be disappointed if lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov suffered his first defeat before he got a chance to take him on.
Above all else, Lee is focused on himself while the other scenarios play out.
“Honestly, I’m not even focused on who’s gonna be the next opponent,” Lee said. “There’s gonna be a lot of great match-ups out there. Anthony Pettis is getting ready to fight Nate Diaz too. You got Jorge Masvidal, who’s a great fighter. You’ve got Darren Till, who’s still out there. There’s so many good fights, that I’m not really too concerned with it. I’m more concerned with getting back in there, getting the right fight, and going out there and putting on a show, just for me and trying to be better. It doesn’t really matter who the opponent is.”
As for when that return will take place, Lee is shooting for a spot on one of October’s cards.
“October is where it’s at. That’s where we’d be looking at,” Lee said. “We trying to right now figure out location and what card. I think a Pay-Per-View makes a lot of sense. I think there’s one here in Vegas. So, a homecoming in Vegas always sounds good. But then again, there’s the San Francisco card in October. There’s a lot going on.”
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.