Following 5-straight wins, 4-straight finishes, and 3-straight RNC’s Kevin Lee has earned himself a shot to compete with Tony Ferguson, at UFC 216, for the UFC’s interim lightweight belt, on October 7, 2017. Before locking horns with Ferguson, Lee caught up with Bloody Elbow to address his dominant, yet controversial, win over Michael Chiesa at UFC Fight Night: Chiesa vs. Lee, thoughts on judge Adelaide Byrd reportedly being removed from the UFC 216 card, and why Demetrious Johnson should be thanking him.
- In your last bout, you technically submitted Michael Chiesa with a RNC at UFC Fight Night 112, as the referee stopped the fight without an actual tap. Chiesa, and the rest of the MMA landscape, seemed to be distraught over the referee’s decision to stop the fight. Do you think that the MMA world was a little hard on Mario Yamasaki?
“It’s from people who don’t understand the sport. I talked to Matt Serra about this, too. Matt Serra was right were you’re at, that it was a great stoppage. It was; it was a great stoppage. The game is intelligently defend yourself. The moment you stop defending yourself, the ref has an obligation to walk in and stop it.”
“As far as the stoppage itself, I think it was a great stoppage. Yamasaki is a multiple time black belt, so he understands that position, and right before you go unconscious. He had an obligation to step in; why let the man take unnecessary damage?
The greatest RNC stoppage of all time?
- It’s just a choke; let em go out?
“I listen to Joe Rogan’s podcast a lot, and Joe’s saying, ‘oh let em go out; it’s just a choke.’
You’re depriving your brain of oxygen and blood. That’s unnecessary damage for no reason. Just because you see a guy get choked out and then come back up, it’s not like he didn’t take any damage. You’re depriving the brain of blood, of course there’s going to be damage there. People die from shit like that.”
- What were your thoughts on the Canelo/GGG decision, particularly Adelaide Byrd’s scorecard?
“I’ll tell you what, I’m glad Adelaide Byrd is off my damn card. I’m fighting a Mexican, too. Look, she had me shook. I’m glad they made the right decision and threw her off the card. I don’t necessarily think there was any conspiracy, or nothing crazy like that. I just think she’s a Canelo fan. I thought Canelo was winning the fight, too, in the early rounds, but then in the later rounds GGG definitely took over. I would have maybe scored it 7-5 for GGG. I can see 6-6, so I wasn’t upset with the score, but 10-2? That’s fookin crazy. I’m so glad that they threw her off my card because I’m fighting a Mexican too, a Mexican that likes to push forward. She ain’t going to give me a fair shake, so I’m happy with the decision to pull her off the card. That’s for damn sure!”
- Are you surprised that you’re headlining UFC 216 over the flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson?
“I think that’s the way it should be. The UFC knows that... Look, Demetrious if anything, Demetrious should be thanking me. He’s getting pay-per-view points for the first time in his career, and it’s going to be because of me. So, if anything, I’m looking for a lil’ Christmas gift from Demetrious... I think the demand is definitely out here, more for this fight, than especially Demetrious vs. Ray Borg. I mean come on. Demetrious has to give it up to me. I’m putting money in his pocket; how can he be upset? When we do the press conference, and I’m sitting right next to him, I’ll let him know.”
- You knew that Ferguson and yourself were destined to battle it out. Now that the fight is here, what do you think about the matchup?
“I’m excited for it. The one thing about that Chiesa fight, I was upset that I didn’t get to show more. It wasn’t even my gameplan to take him down really. I kind of wanted to show a little bit more to the fans, and show a little more to the people. I think people are excited to see more out of me, and I’m excited to show it to them. Tony, he can take a shot. He can keep moving. He even scrambles well on the ground. I feel like we will have a lot of different exchanges, a lot of momentum. I’m excited for it.”
- Considering Conor McGregor is off doing his own thing, should your fight with Ferguson be for the undisputed title?
“It’s whatever you want to call it really. To me, to most hardcore MMA fans, this is for the real championship. You got 1 guy with 1 fight in the division and calls himself champ. It just doesn’t make sense. Even the fact that he was allowed to do that, step up and fight, I get it. It was a huge event; it made a lot of money, but from a competitive standpoint, from a sporting standpoint, it didn’t make any sense. To have 1 guy with 1 fight call himself the champ, it just doesn’t make sense. You have Tony Ferguson who has double digit fights in the UFC’s lightweight division, me too. So, it’s definitely for the real championship.”
- Thoughts on Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather:
“As far as I’m concerned, Conor, he just got beat up by a man that’s 40 years old and coming off of retirement, and he got walked down. I thought he would be the one to change up his style, and show some new flavor, but it was Floyd. Floyd was changing up stances on him. Floyd was doing the most. Apparently, Conor’s all talk. I thought he could do more than what he said, so as far as I’m concerned, he’s got to show me more, and then I’ll maybe give him a shot at the real championship.”
- Training with Georges St-Pierre:
“When I was up in Montreal for a couple days, I got to train with him a couple of times. He’s cool peoples. I love Georges, and I try to surround myself with as many world champions as I can. I got Robert Follis, I got Dewey Cooper, I have Corey Goodwin... I surround myself with nothing but world champions, guys that have already been at that level. When I go over to One Kick Nick’s gym, I’m sparring with Muay Thai guys at the highest level. Yesterday, I rolled with 3 black belts from Drysdale’s, and the highest black belts you can get. So, I try and surround myself with many world champions, and being around someone like Georges, and kind of understanding how he structures his camps, how he does his training, who he’s around. He’s 36 now, so he’s got me by a couple years, so it’s just somebody else I can learn from and just understand how the game works. The more I’m around guys like that, the more I can get there.”
- What’s Kevin Lee’s official prediction for UFC 216?
“I’m going to beat the fook out of Tony.”
“I got even bigger plans than this. This is just the beginning. Once I get that gold strap, it’s just the beginning. I’m telling you, I just turned 25 years old, I still got 10 more years in this game.”
Watch Kevin Lee compete with Tony Ferguson for the UFC interim lightweight belt, at UFC 216 on October 7, 2017. Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for all of your UFC event coverage including interviews, play-by-play, highlights, and more!