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Kevin Lee claims Khabib’s promotion pays him ‘more than most UFC champions’

Kevin Lee is due to compete at Eagle FC on March 11.

Kevin Lee during UFC 216 media day.
Kevin Lee during UFC 216 media day.
Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

After an up-and-down tenure in the UFC Kevin Lee split from the promotion in 2021. ‘The Motown Phenom’ quickly found a new home; Eagle FC, the promotion owned by former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Lee is scheduled to debut at Eagle FC 46 on March 11 against fellow Octagon veteran Diego Sanchez.

Lee recently spoke with MMA Junkie about his new employer, which—according to him—is far more generous than his old one.

“We know that the best fighters aren’t always in the UFC,” Lee said. “There are some guys out in Russia that will beat the fuck out of you, so my competitiveness in me just drives me to be even better than them – and that’s just a never-ending process. It’s not like now I can chill, now I’m making a bunch of money, now I can go out there and just have fun. No – this is a fight. This is a fight for your life at the end of the day.

“People lose their life doing this type of shit, so the competitor in me is still up there and still driving. I’m making a bunch of money, though. That’s the part I’m not upset about. My contract will make more than most UFC champions see, so that part is kind of nice. But the competitor in me still thinks it’s the same game. … I’m going to make more than UFC champions in my first fight, so we’re having fun.”

Lee’s Eagle FC debut will be at 165 lbs. He said he was excited to be part of forming a new weight-class with the promotion; one that he hopes takes off across MMA.

“The best part is getting to make history – getting to be able to be the one to pioneer this division. I think it’s going to be something that we can look back on and say, ‘Oh, OK – this is where it all started.’ The rumblings kind of started in 2017 when we started talking about it first, and it took us five, six years to actually do it, and I think it’ll be another three, four years before it’s really implemented. It’s like the time before where there was no 155, there was no 145, there was no 135 and now you’re seeing all these things start to implement. So to be on the forefront of the 165, it gives me a little more drive in order to get it done.”

Lee joined the UFC in 2014, taking a loss to Al Iaquinta in his debut. He then won four straight fights with wins over Jon Tuck and Michel Prazeres. His momentum from that run was stunted by a shock TKO loss to Leonardo Santos at UFC 194 in 2015.

After that loss Lee put together a five-fight win streak, beating Jake Matthews, Francisco Trinaldo and Michael Chiesa.

Those wins set up an interim UFC lightweight title bout against Tony Ferguson. However, Lee would be defeated by El Cucuy via third round submission.

Since then Lee has struggled to find the win column, going 2-4 to end his UFC career. Most recently he lost to Daniel Rodriguez by unanimous decision.

After the Rodriguez fight it was announced that Lee had tested positive for the ADHD medication Adderall. He was handed a six month suspension by the Nevada Athletic Commission. Lee was released by the UFC soon after.