Kevin Lee had a recent change of heart when it came to Khabib Nurmagomedov, but there is still one thing that irks him about the UFC lightweight champion.
Following Nurmagomedov’s title defense against Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 in September, Lee was all praise for “The Eagle” and even cited his performance as the reason why he moved back down to lightweight.
Before, Lee never really credited Nurmagomedov’s performances and always claimed he would be the one to defeat him. And while there is respect from his side now, the “Motown Phenom” still plans on doing just that.
He also believes Nurmagomedov has been protected by his management team by not facing the tougher opponents throughout his UFC career.
“Look, there’s respect, but I’m still gonna whoop his ass at the end of the day,” Lee said on Submission Radio. “Come on, come on. I can give respect and still I’m a competitor, and that’s what I’m looking for.
“And I still don’t dig the way they’ve run his career. You know, Ali [Abdelaziz] is a very smart dude, he’s kept him away from the right guys. Not many people talk about that. Everybody wants to kind of get on [Conor] McGregor for kind of ducking and dodging people, but at the same time, Khabib has done the same thing. So, in them cases I don’t give no respect, but his fighting style I definitely gotta respect. But I’m a competitor, I’m coming after his ass.”
Lee also brought up how Nurmagomedov was inactive for a period — presumably when he fought twice from April 2014 to April 2016 — and ended up not facing many of the top contenders at the time.
He credits Nurmagomedov’s manager Abdelaziz for that and believes he would never put his client up against Lee’s next opponent at UFC 244 — Gregor Gillespie.
“People have a very short memory and they forget that for one stretch of his career for like three years, the man only fought once or twice and kind of dipped and dodged his way up through the top ten,” Lee added. “You know, when you’re taking these fights. Like, I will take a stupid fight like this (against Gregor Gillespie). Again, Ali is one of them managers, he would look at Khabib trying to take this same fight and say, ‘don’t ever fight a guy like Gregor, especially before he gets to the top.’
“And me, I don’t know, I just don’t look at it the same way. So, I don’t feel like, put in the same position, that he would do the same thing, and he didn’t. He kind of showed that. But that’s all on him and his career.”