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Staph infection, weight cut made Kevin Lee ‘too emotional’ ahead of Tony Ferguson bout at UFC 216

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Before Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee made it to the Octagon for the main event of UFC 216, it appeared as though the interim title fight was in jeopardy.

Speaking on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, “The Motown Phenom” claimed that his struggle with making weight and suffering from a staph infection made him “too emotional” ahead of the lightweight meeting.

Lee emerged at the official weigh-ins for the event with a pound still to lose, but eventually hit the mark on championship weight when he was afforded another hour to shed the excess by the Nevada Athletic Commission.

On Saturday night, UFC commentator Joe Rogan immediately noted that Lee was suffering from a staph infection that was visible on his chest when he made his entrance.

Ferguson went on to claim a win via third-round submission and immediately looked to align himself with a date with Conor McGregor.

According to Lee, who is currently on antibiotics to help with his staph infection, the fact that he was cutting weight would not allow his body to fight off the infection.

“I think the weight cut really didn’t help with it,” Lee told Ariel Helwani.

“When you’re in that weakened state and I’m not eating that many calories, my body just didn’t have the immune system to fight it off.

“It affected a lot. It put me in a fight or flight mode for too long, but it’s going be all right. I’ve dealt with a lot more than a staph infection.

“A staph infection wasn’t going to stop me from fighting. Some of these dudes would go to the hospital over it, but I’m like, ‘f**k it, what’s the worst that’s going to happen?’ Let’s do it.”

Lee explained how he discovered the infection.

“It was the Sunday before the fight,” he said.

“I noticed it. It was kind of hurting because we were moving around a little bit on Monday morning. It was hurting but it wasn’t hurting enough for me to really say anything because there was so much riding on the line and so much weight.

“Even during the fight I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. I’m a professional, I make do with what I do. I made weight the way I was supposed to. And we made the fight and I feel like I entertained the fans like we’re supposed to do.

“People liked the fight, so that’s all I can be happy for.”

At one point, Lee claimed his whole focus was on making weight rather than the interim title fight.

“At that point it became me against the scale, and at that point I think you could start to see that a little bit,” he said.

“That weight cut was brutal, especially the last few hours. That was my main focus. I wasn’t going to let down everybody just because I couldn’t make the weight.

“That was main focus, making the weight. I didn’t care about the staph, I didn’t care about my performance even. My main focus then and there was to make the weight.

“And you can see that after I made the weight, everything just collapsed in me. I really didn’t have much energy left after that. Then it was just go out there and fight.”

On the Thursday before the fight, Lee made headlines when he claimed that he had still to cut 19 pounds to make championship weight. Although many disputed that the number was that high, Lee told Helwani that he actually had to lose over 20 pounds the day before the weigh in.

“I think cut 20 and a half pounds in that time,” he remembered.

“It sounds crazy to other people, but because I carry a lot of muscle mass I’m able to cut a lot more water. And I’ve done these cuts so many times. I usually come in at 176 on the week of the fight and have to weigh in at 156, so you’re still looking at a 20-pound cut.

“This time I was about 175. Everything was about normal. It just was just the pressure of the event, the staph…it was a little too much for my brain to handle and my body didn’t want to keep up with it.”

He revealed that it was the toughest cut of his career:

“Yeah, absolutely. At eight o’clock I was still weighing 161 pounds, which means that only had two hours to get off close to six pounds, which was just brutal.

“I did what I had to do, it is what it is. It sucks but I had to do it. I made it though.”

If Lee had not been given the extra hour to cut weight, he believes it would have been very difficult to make championship weight.

“When there was twenty minutes left, I still had two pounds to cut at that time. I was like ‘Oh man, I ain’t gonna be on weight.’ They were taking boiling hot water and tossing it in the bath with me to get me to where I could lose some weight.

“At that point, I thought there was too little time, but then when they said I had the extra hour I knew that I was going to make it. It was just matter of time it was just about getting there and suffering through it.”

Like the vast majority of people, Lee had not idea that he would be given an extra hour to make the weight.

“No, I didn’t know until maybe right before I stepped on the scale,” he said.

“I was just hoping it was 155, but I knew I was off by at least a pound. With twenty minutes left and two pounds to go? I was just hoping. I didn’t even check, we just ran down there and hopped right on the scale.”

He admitted that it would have been a sizeable weight off his shoulders if he had’ve known he would be given the extra hour while he was cutting weight.

“It would have been a big stress reliever. They really could’ve told me at like 8 o’clock. They could have told me, ‘Hey, you’ve got an extra hour if you need it’.

“They kept coming up there, you know (Jeff) Novtizky and all the doctors. They kept coming up and checking on me on my hotel room making sure that I was alright.

“But nobody ever said it until ten minutes before, and I had been stressing out this whole time. I was thinking, ‘Damn, y’all could’ve said something’, but we got the job done.”

Lee insisted that the combination of the weight cut and his staph infection made him “too emotional” ahead of the his clash with Ferguson.

“I think that’s what made me be in such a high state. You could see it at the weigh ins that I was in a heightened state and maybe I was a little bit too emotional. I think that has something to do with it because I gave so much to the weight cut,” he said.

“I honestly just forgot about the fight during that process so, when I got into it and I saw Tony in front of me there was nothing but anger and emotion.

“Now that I’ve been through that, I feel I’ll do a better job of handling that going forward.”