Morning Report: Kevin Lee returning to lightweight, eyeing fight with ‘the next Khabib,’ Islam Makhachev

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
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Following a rough stretch of fights, and an even rougher stretch of weigh-ins at 155 pounds, earlier this year Kevin Lee made the move up to welterweight. He didn’t waste any time, taking on former lightweight champion and top contender Raphael dos Anjos. But the move up to welterweight didn’t go as planned and Lee was submitted in the fourth round. Now, it appears that move will be a one-and-done as Lee has his sights set on returning to the division where he once challenged for an interim title.

Speaking with ESPN recently, Lee said that after watching UFC 242 this past weekend he now wants to return to the lightweight division to pursue a fight with champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.

“After looking at that last fight with Khabib, I did an interview before Khabib fought Dustin [Poirier] and said I wasn’t too impressed,” Lee said. “But after seeing the way Khabib handled Dustin, I might want a piece of that cake.

“I like the biggest target I can find. Right now everybody sees Khabib as - I mean, they already kind of saw it before but now I’m even coming around to it - he’s the real challenge out there. He’s the guy who is going to challenge Jon Jones for the pound-for-pound title. That’s the kind of fight that will get me up.”

Lee has always pursued the biggest fights possible and at this point, there may be no bigger fight in the world than against Nurmagomedov. After demolishing interim champion Dustin Poirier this weekend, Khabib is now being thrown into GOAT conversations, is the second-ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and is arguably the second biggest star in the UFC, behind only Conor McGregor. But at the moment, Nurmagomedov has a pretty full dance card as he’s expected to face Tony Ferguson next and is still actively pursuing a fight with former welterweight and middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre, not to mention the looming presence of Conor McGregor. So given all that, Lee has another plan to get himself in the conversation, picking a fight with Nurmagomedov’s friend and training partner Islam Makhachev.

“I hear they’re going to Moscow and I hear Islam might want a fight,” Lee said “Me and Islam on a co-main in Moscow sounds good to me.”

Makhachev is currently the 14th-ranked lightweight in the UFC rankings and has many people calling him the next Khabib because of his gaudy record and fighting style. Even Nurmagomedov himself anointed Makhachev “next champion” during the post-fight press conference at UFC 242. That kind of hype is very appealing for Lee, plus there’s a built in backstory with Lee moving his training to TriStar gym, home of Georges St-Pierre.

“People see him as the next Khabib,” Lee said. “He’s coming up. I’ve kind of always had my eye on him. MMA is a very small circle. We know a lot of the same people. I hear rumblings Islam can fight. I’m like, ‘Oh, he can fight? OK. We’ll see.’ Khabib would probably be in his corner. I’ll be training with Georges [St-Pierre]. There’s talks of trying to make Khabib and Georges happen. There are a lot of little storylines there. Lot of motivation in a fight like that.”

The fight actually makes a lot of sense as Makhachev has been knocking on the door of the elite for some time and Lee still holds a top-10 ranking at lightweight. But the question is, can Lee still make the weight? Lee’s move to welterweight was done in large part because the weight-cut to 155 was too draining on him. But after the move up, now Lee thinks 155 is the best fit for him, in part because of all the drama at the top of the welterweight division with champion Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington not fighting each other and the presence of a new, one-off belt. With all that going on, Lee says he just wants to get back to the business of fighting and for that, lightweight makes the most sense for him.

“I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t feel like that a little bit,” Lee said when asked if he still felt that he fit into a 165-pound division. “But I think 155 has always been kind of that home for me. It’s where I started. That’s the title I first wanted. I said, ‘OK, I’ll bounce up to 170.’ It made more sense. I could be healthier and show up to fight more, but I didn’t factor these guys don’t want to fight at 170. There’s a whole lot of muddiness that happened at 170. Kamaru doesn’t want to fight Colby and now they’re making some other weird title that’s going on. It’s a lot to throw into the mix, and for me, I just want to get back to my winning ways. I just want to fight.”


Putin. Khabib Nurmagomdov meets with Russian president Vladimir Putin to celebrate ‘convincing victory’ at UFC 242.

Withdrawal. Justin Gaethje almost withdrew from UFC Vancouver due to eye infection.

Cowyoy. Donald Cerrone tells Conor McGregor: ‘Sh*t or get off the pot, bro.’

Feud. Jorge Masvidal claims Colby Covington feud started after he ‘ripped off’ one of his coaches.

Chaos. Colby Covington explains beef with ‘jealous’ Jorge Masvidal and ‘egomaniac’ Dustin Poirier.

Act. Demetrious Johnson thinks Henry Cejudo’s act is working: ‘You’re talking about it right now’.


Khabib’s return to Dagestan. Says he flew in at night to avoid getting mobbed.

And Khabib meeting with Putin.

Masvidal on Le Batard.

Khabib vs. Tony trailer.


Fights Gone By. Discussing Gaethje vs. Cerrone and the rest of UFC Vancouver.

The MMA Vivisection. In-depth breakdown of the best fight at UFC Vancouver.



Got him.

Seriously hope they don’t run this back. The first fight was incredibly uncompetitive.

LOL. “Greatest welterweight of all time”.

Durinho calling out Gunni.

And no one calling out Yan.

Anthony Smith has exceptionally white teeth.


Zebaztian Kadestam (12-4) vs. Kiamrian Abbasov (21-4); ONE Championship, Oct. 25.

John Lineker (31-9) vs. Muin Gafurov (17-2); ONE Championship, Oct. 25.

Paul Daley (41-17-2) vs. Sabah Homasi (13-8); Bellator 232, Oct. 26.

Andrei Arlovski (28-18) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (8-0); UFC 244, Nov. 2.


Hot take: the fight tomorrow won’t win FOTN. Gaethje is gonna attack the body early and get Cowboy out of there within five minutes.

Thanks for reading, enjoy the fights, and see y’all on Monday.


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