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Kevin Lee: After UFC 216, I might grant Conor McGregor a title shot

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

LOS ANGELES -- As far as Kevin Lee is considered, there is no “interim” attached to the UFC lightweight title belt for which he and Tony Ferguson will compete at UFC 216.

The reigning champion is Conor McGregor, but McGregor has yet to defend the title he won last November, and isn’t going to fight again anytime in the foreseeable future.

“I think it already is for the real championship,” Lee said at a media event Monday promoting UFC 216. “People talk about that, like, Conor being, to me, he’s got to prove to me he’s ready to fight.”

Lee went further, saying that McGregor is actually 1-3 in his past four fights, believing that he shouldn’t have gotten the decision in his rematch with Nate Diaz, in addition to the loss in his first Diaz fight and his recent boxing loss to Floyd Mayweather.

“As far as I’m concerned the man has lost three of his last four fights,” Lee said. “I don’t even think beat Nate Diaz the second time. I like a big challenge, so he’s gotta show me a little bit. He’s a small dude, too, he’s 145. He was getting out-wrestled by a dude who’s 40 years old and a boxer. He was getting him in the clinches and out-wrestling him. I mean, he was, he’s gotta show a little bit more than that to me.

“So after this one, maybe I might give him a shot at the title,” Lee continued. “Maybe, I don’t know. We’ll see how he kind of reacts. Maybe he should fight Nate again and prove that he can fight me.”

Lee, of course, still needs to get past Ferguson, who carries a nine-fight win streak into Saturday’s bout, before he can attempt to dictate his next opponent. And McGregor, of course, would mean a far bigger paycheck than any other potential opponent.

“The Motown Phenom” is willing to acknowledge the latter. But he says he’ll see McGregor on his timetable, not Conor’s.

“I mean it will be on my terms,” Lee said. “It will be on my timetable. You know, I’m expecting to take this fight. I’m doing the hard work. I’m doing the heavy lifting. I’m fighting Tony. Nobody wanted to fight Tony. Conor didn’t want to fight Tony. It will be on my timetable, I’ll tell him when we gonna fight. If we fight on St. Patrick’s Day? Maybe. That might make some good business so I don’t know, I’ll see.”