Kevin Lee was 7-0 and riding a streak of four submission wins when he first fought under the UFC banner. Lee was 21 — the second youngest fighter on the UFC roster at that time — only 20-year-old Sergio Pettis was younger. Lee lost his UFC debut to 26-year-old Al Iaquinta by decision. Early this week, the UFC released the now 29-year-old Lee.
Lee went 11-7 with the UFC. He fought in the main event in six of his last eight fights with the promotion — including in the headlining bout of the UFC 216 pay-per-view — where Tony Ferguson defeated him via submission to claim the interim UFC lightweight title.
‘The Motown Phenom’ has not had a long time to reflect on his tenure with the UFC ending, but he had time to think about some lessons he learned during his time with the promotion. With that, Lee offered some advice to young up-and-coming UFC fighters.
“Don’t take these tough fights. I ain’t going to lie to you, don’t do it. Cherry pick. That’s what they really want to see,” Lee told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “They say they want somebody to step up and take the tough fights and do all this.
“Man, they’re going to be your best friend when they want you to take the fight. They’ll damn near get on their hands and knees. But then afterward they’ll kick you to the curb.
“People told me that going into the UFC too. They told me that same thing. I didn’t really listen, I just kept trying to give them what they want. But don’t even do that. Cherry pick. Cherry pick like a MFer. You’ll get further that way.”
Lee, who is serving a six-month suspension with the Nevada Athletic Commission for a positive drug test for Adderall, said he had two fights on his UFC contract and that he has already heard from three other promotions, including Triller.