Kevin Lee has signed an exclusive multi-fight deal with Eagle Fighting Championship, the promotion owned by retired former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The news was first reported by Ariel Helwani and later confirmed during a press conference held on Wednesday in Miami, where Lee appeared and spoke about his decision to sign with the promotion. The ‘Motown Phenom’ explained that the main factor in his signing was the creation of a 165-pound division, which is something he has proposed for several years.
“That was a big part of this decision,” said Lee. “I’m really grateful that Eagle FC is willing to do a 165-pound division. I think it’s going to benefit a lot of guys and I’m the best one in the world at that weight. I’ve said that for a long time and it’s a big part of the reason why I’m coming over here.
“I’ll be the first 165-pound world champion,” continued Lee. “There’s been world champions at 55. There’s been world champions at 70, and I’ll be the first one [at 65] and it feels nice to make a little piece of history for mixed martial arts.”
Lee also revealed that his debut is expected to happen in March and it will be against a soon-to-be determined opponent.
The 29-year-old was recently released from his UFC contract following a unanimous decision loss to Daniel Rodriguez at UFC Vegas 35 this past August. The end of his seven-year stint with the promotion saw Lee amass a record of just 1-4 in five fights, with the sole win coming over two years ago by way of a ‘Knockout of the Year’ candidate against Gregor Gillespie at UFC 244. He attempted to follow that performance up a few months later, opposite of current UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira, but was finished in the third round of their fight.
Prior to his string of losing appearances under the UFC banner, Lee earned wins over notable names such as Magomed Mustafaev, Francisco Trinaldo and Michael Chiesa, all of which were by submission. After going on a five-fight win streak, he met Tony Ferguson to compete for the interim UFC lightweight championship at UFC 216. Despite a strong start, Lee was ultimately submitted via third-round triangle choke.
Lee returned to the win column with a technical knockout of Edson Barboza at UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs. Lee, but dropped his next two fights to Al Iaquinta and Rafael dos Anjos, the latter being his welterweight debut.
Lee holds an overall record of 18-7 as a professional.