UFC lightweight Kevin Lee has re-emerged following his loss to Raphael Dos Anjos at UFC Rochester on May 18.
“The Motown Phenom” appeared on yesterday’s JRE MMA Show #67, opening up about his recent performance, changes to be made going forward and his future at lightweight.
Lee has been absent from the media following his fourth-round submission loss to Dos Anjos in Rochester. In a candid Instagram post, released hours after the fight, a dejected Lee said he “ didn’t know what happened” during the fight. Perhaps even more pointedly, he confided to the camera “this s*** be the highest highs and the lowest lows, this s*** makes you question what you believe in.”
As a fan favorite and prodigious talent, there was much concern over the effect of the loss on the 26-year-old. But speaking to Joe Rogan yesterday, Lee remains undeterred and already on the path to improvement.
“The result wasn’t exactly what I wanted, and I was upset at myself for a few days,” he said. In terms of what went wrong, everything in the lead-up was clicking in an almost eerie way.
“Before the fight in the locker room, I was seeing certain things. You know when you’re on your way to work, and you hit every green light. It was kind of like that type of feeling I was having. I felt like everything was coming together right, and my confidence was boosting up so much. The warm-up was perfect; everything was perfect. So when it didn’t go my way, it was discouraging. I didn’t know necessarily what I was doing wrong.”
Specifically, Lee admits he underestimated RDA’s ability to push the pace and believes his opponent exercised better fight IQ on the night.
“What surprised me was how smart he was. He beat me tactically more than anything. When I was going, he wasn’t doing. He’s letting me burn out my energy then he took his moment when I made the last mistake.”
The tragic death of Robert Follis at the end of 2018 clearly had a profound effect on Lee; losing not only a close friend, but one of the world’s foremost MMA tacticians. The loss to RDA re-affirms the need for some significant changes in his tactical approach to UFC fights. The first of these is finding a mentor to carry on Follis’ work to put him on the road to the belt.
“Robert was that guy for me until he passed, right now that’s where I’m at in the limbo trying to find someone who can give me that experience. I’m already at the point that I understand that I can’t necessarily replace him but how I can make it right is by winning that title, he saw that for me.”
And it seems Lee is a man with a plan. Following the podcast, Lee detailed is embarking on a camp tour; starting with Arizona’s John Crouch. From here, Lee will visit Trevor Wittman in Colorado before winding up in the great white north with Firas Zahabi at the legendary Tristar Gym, to find what he describes as “that great mind” to guide him.
Lee’s determination and iron-clad mindset was arguably a hindrance at 155-pounds. His brutal weight cuts detracted attention from the required technical and tactical preparation for the fight. He admits that losing six pounds in two hours for his tout with Tony Ferguson put him “at such a high adrenalin level that I never really calmed down,” despite attempts from Follis.
It was this inability to loosen up that won him the first round but ultimately lost him the fight. Indeed, Lee’s last few outings look much the same; Mike Chiappetta of MMA Fighting describes him as follows.
“If you self-imposed a 10-minute limit on your MMA main-event viewing, you would be forgiven if you had concluded sometime in the last year or so that Kevin Lee was one of the best fighters on earth. For about two rounds — sometimes just a shade less — Lee is a hurtling asteroid”
But at the minute, that is just the problem; managing the soaring ambition into a steady burn rather than a supernova.
So where does Lee see his future post UFC Rochester? Asked if he is 100% committed to 170-pounds, he replies, “Yeah I think so, I think it’s right.”
Wherever Lee chose to make his bed, there would be stiff competition. At least with the right coaching at 170-pounds, he can focus more attention on overcoming others than having to overcome himself.
Rhodri Morgan is a combat sports writer based out of London, England. When not covering MMA, he can be found roaming the halls of a south London Wholefoods, finding a dog to befriend and rolling in the doomed pursuit of the perfect kimura.