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Kevin Lee explains botched UFC Atlantic City weight cut, plans to hire nutritionist for next fight

The day before his UFC Atlantic City win over Edson Barboza, lightweight contender Kevin Lee missed weight for the first time in his six-year MMA career.

Lee tipped the scales at 157 pounds at UFC Atlantic City’s official weigh-ins, one pound heavier than the 156-pound lightweight limit allotted for non-title fights. Per the rules of the New Jersey State Athletic Commission Boxing — the regulatory body which oversaw the event — Lee was not allowed any additional time to cut weight, was fined 20 percent of his show purse, and the fight proceeded at a catchweight at the agreement of Barboza.

Lee ended up soundly defeating Barboza via fifth-round TKO due to doctor’s stoppage in the main event of UFC Atlantic City, which took place April 14 at New Jersey’s Boardwalk Hall. Afterward, on Monday’s episode of The MMA Hour, Lee reflected back on the first botched weight cut of his MMA career and explained where he believes things went wrong.

“I think there could’ve been some adjustments that I could’ve made, especially on the timing,” Lee told host Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “I think I just had the timing [off]. The timing was off a little bit too much, and my scale was a little bit different too. When I weighed myself on my scale upstairs, I was almost a pound-and-a-half heavier than what I thought. So it just was minor technical difficulties really when it came down to it. My body never reached a point where it was breaking down. It just became that I ran out of time.”

Lee, 25, said his weight cut never a point of concern for his safety like it did at UFC 216, when Lee tipped the scales at 154.5 on a second attempt after being given an extra hour to cut weight by the Nevada Athletic Commission ahead of his interim title fight against Tony Ferguson. Lee was suffering from a nasty staph infection during that cut, which made the process a much more grueling affair.

However, things were different in New Jersey.

“It wasn’t nowhere near the same level,” Lee said. “Especially, they were throwing boiling hot water on me for that Tony Ferguson weight cut, so it wasn’t nowhere near that level. I felt like I could’ve still pushed. I felt like still I could’ve went. The New Jersey athletic commission for whatever reason doesn’t allow that extra hour, which I wasn’t really clear on, and the hotel that we were staying at, they wouldn’t even let us in to use the sauna until like 5:45, something like that, when they promised that they’d let us in at 5:00.

“When you’re going to these new commissions, you don’t really know the rules until you get there. When I talk about a weight cut as big as mine, it takes weeks and weeks and weeks to plan. Even if they tell me the day of, it’s like, okay, well, I’ve been planning for six weeks, I’ve been cutting this weight to get down to a certain level, and I feel like I have it down to a very scientific spot, because I try to spend as little amount of time dehydrated.”

In an example of how fractured the regulatory bodies in MMA currently are, if “The Motown Phenom” had fought one week earlier at UFC on FOX 29, he would’ve actually been granted an additional two hours to cut weight in accordance with Arizona’s state commission rules. Those rules are different in New Jersey though, and thus Lee was not allotted any extra time.

Regardless, after deciding not to employ a nutritionist to help with his weight cut for UFC Atlantic City, Lee said he “probably” plans to reverse that decision for his next fight.

“Especially for the week of,” Lee said. “I’m definitely going to need one just to get that extra little stress and that extra little load off me, and not have me doing it. A lot of the notes that I look at and things are from old weight cuts, and I’m just getting bigger. So there’s definitely going to be some adjustments that could be made. But 155, I’m here to stay.”

The only real gripe Lee had with the whole situation was the UFC’s unofficial rule of abstaining from awarding bonuses to fighters who missed weight. In Lee’s eyes, that rule took potential money out of Barboza’s pocket, despite the Brazilian doing nothing wrong.

“I just don’t see that system being okay,” Lee said. “The 20 percent [fine], that’s in my contract, I understand that. I kinda knew that going in. It’s not being eligible for the bonuses and all this — because it doesn’t take away from the performance, I feel like. Barboza put on a hell of a performance and I feel like you could’ve given the man some scratch for that.

“He went out there and he could’ve easily turned away during the first round even, gave up his neck and it would’ve been done, but Barboza stuck in there for five full rounds and took a beating on that. And he can’t get a ‘Fight of the Night’ bonus because of — it’s not even a rule, it’s just like kinda in good faith or something, you know?”

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