There wasn’t some grand plan when UFC lightweight contender Kevin Lee agreed to take a welterweight bout against Rafael dos Anjos on Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 152 card in Rochester, New York.
Lee just wanted a fight.
“The main thing, especially after the last performance, was just to get out there and fight again,” the Las Vegan said by phone from western New York ahead of his main event matchup scheduled for ESPN Plus. “When they approached with dos Anjos, No. 1, I knew he was going to take the fight. No. 2, I knew he’d show up and give me a good fight. That made more sense to me than anything. He’s my first former world champion, somebody who has already been at the top of the top for me to face and see where I’m at.”
After going through the camp and experiencing a fight-week free of the worry and constant stress of a weight cut to 155 pounds, the 26-year-old Lee thinks he may have found a new home at 170.
“As I get closer and kind of understanding how the camp went and how I’m feeling, it might be that I’m a welterweight now,” Lee proclaimed.
That could, of course, change pending the outcome of Saturday’s fight against dos Anjos, a former lightweight champion who has been a perennial contender since moving up to welterweight two years ago.
“He was a world champion and he still is in my eyes,” Lee said. “A belt is a huge thing. I’ve seen a lot of people underestimate that.
“That title next to your name of being a champion, you can’t take that away from someone. You might write the word former next to it or whatever, but at the end of the day, he’s still a UFC champ. He still had that push to get there so it’s still there. It’s definitely something I hold with a lot of respect because I know all the struggle it takes to get there.”
While the buildup to the fight has gone well and Lee has been in a better mood than in past fight weeks where it was a battle just to make weight, he said he doesn’t know for sure whether he will still have the same speed and power in his new division until he actually steps in the cage.
“I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought about those things,” he said. “The only thing I can do is get in there and do it and we’ll see. If you ask me Sunday, I may have a whole different answer.
“I feel like I’m still just as fast, I feel like I’m in even better shape and a little more durable too. But we’ll see. We’ll see how it plays out and what comes of it.”
Also on the 13-fight card, which begins streaming at 2 p.m., Vicente Luque will take on Derrick Krantz. Luque was scheduled to face Neil Magny until the veteran was forced to pull out of the fight on Monday because of a potential violation of the organization’s anti-doping policy.
Women’s featherweight contender Megan Anderson will be in action against Felicia Spencer.
Former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley suffered a hand injury and has been forced out of a scheduled bout against former champ Robbie Lawler, according to a report by ESPN on Friday. The bout had been set to headline UFC on ESPN 3 on June 29 in Minneapolis.
UFC officials will seek a replacement opponent for Lawler, who missed more than a year before returning to action in a submission loss to Ben Askren in March.
Woodley had been looking to bounce back from losing his belt to Kamaru Usman on that same UFC 235 card.
Faber teases comeback
UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber took to social media this week to indicate his interest in taking a fight when the organization returns to his hometown of Sacramento, California, in July.
Faber, 40, stepped away from the sport after defeating Brad Pickett in a bantamweight bout in Sacramento in December 2016.
He went into the Hall of Fame the following year.
“I know my baby is keeping me young, but a good ol’ fist fight could help the cause,” Faber, whose daughter Cali was born in March, wrote on social media. “UFC Sacramento on the Horizon, 145 or 135 and who would be fun?”
UFC Fight Night 155 will take place at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center on July 13.
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■ Saturday: UFC Fight Night 152 (ESPN Plus), Rochester, N.Y.
■ Thursday: Professional Fighters League 13 (ESPN Plus), Uniondale, N.Y.
■ June 1: UFC Fight Night 153 (ESPN Plus), Stockholm
■ June 6: Professional Fighters League 14 (ESPN Plus), Uniondale, N.Y.
■ June 7: Invicta FC 35 (Fight Pass), Kansas City, Kan.
■ June 8: UFC 238 (ESPN/ESPN Plus PPV), Chicago