Las Vegan Kevin Lee is a rising star in the UFC lightweight division with his first headlining bout coming up on Sunday in Oklahoma City.
He also may be one of the most qualified individuals in the world to analyze the upcoming boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor.
He has been training at Mayweather Boxing Club since relocating to Las Vegas from Detroit three years ago. Lee, 24, is also rising up the ranks in the division where McGregor currently holds the UFC title.
Lee, who will fight Michael Chiesa in the main event of UFC Fight Night 112 on Sunday, admits he may be a bit conflicted on Aug. 26 as McGregor represents mixed martial arts against one of the greatest boxers of all-time.
“Even though I’ll be on Floyd’s side, there’s a little piece of me that will see it that way,” Lee said. “A very little piece.”
It’s very possible Lee will be called on to help Mayweather prepare for McGregor’s style during training camp. He laughed when asked what advice he would give to McGregor if asked for advice by the underdog.
“We’re going up a long hill, baby,” Lee laughed. “I’d try to be as honest with him as possible. You can’t blow smoke … You have to be honest with him. You can’t say, ‘Hey, you hit really hard and you’re going to land a punch eventually.’ It will put him in there with the wrong idea. You have to tell him, ‘You’re in for a long fight.’ I don’t think he can handle the pace if he doesn’t catch Floyd in the first two or three rounds and hurt him with something. I do think he’s got power and he’s big. I think people underestimate that, but I think Floyd’s way, way too smart.”
Lee said Mayweather’s camp will not underestimate McGregor, partly because they have been around Lee and other mixed martial artists the last few years.
“They all respect me and they all respect what I do,” Lee said. “When I first got there, there was a thought about MMA guys. They thought I was on that old school Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture stuff. But they see me train on a daily basis and they have a better understanding of it. They see me in there kicking and they’re like, ‘Nah, I can’t mess with that.’
“Hopefully Conor can get us some respect even if he gets whooped.”
Lee has won eight of his last nine fights and believes a win over Chiesa, who he famously brawled with at a news conference in Dallas in May, will put him in contention at 155 pounds. Lee, however, hopes to move up to 165 if the weight class is added by the UFC later this year as rumored.
Women’s champ stripped
UFC women’s featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie has been stripped of her belt by the organization for refusing to fight top contender Cris “Cyborg” Justino.
The move clears the way for Justino to fight Invicta FC champ Megan Anderson for the vacant featherweight belt in the co-main event of UFC 214 on July 29 in Anaheim, California.
UFC officials revealed the decision with a statement on Monday.
“UFC has informed Germaine de Randamie and her management team that she is being removed as the women’s featherweight champion due to her unwillingness to fight the No. 1 ranked contender, Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino,” the statement read. “UFC maintains that any champion is expected to accept fights against the top contenders in their respective weight classes in order to maintain the integrity of the sport.”
De Randamie was the first 145-pound female champion in the UFC. The division was essentially created for Justino, but she was unable to compete earlier this year and de Randamie instead fought Holly Holm for the vacant title in February with the expectation the winner would then take on Justino.
De Randamie won the belt and balked at a challenge from Justino.
Anderson and Justino will now fight on a card that already features a light heavyweight title bout between champion Daniel Cormier and former champ Jon Jones.
Belltor pay-per-view set
Light heavyweight veterans Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva will finally meet in a cage on Saturday night in New York as the main event of Bellator MMA’s second foray into the pay-per-view market.
Sonnen and Silva have carried on a bitter rivalry for years that was particularly heated when they served as opposing coaches on the Brazilian version of “The Ultimate Fighter” in 2014. They were supposed to fight at the end, but both fighters encountered drug testing issues with the Nevada Athletic Commission and were eventually released from the UFC.
Silva hasn’t competed since 2013.
Also on the card, heavyweight legend Fedor Emelianenko will take on Matt Mitrione and Bellator champions Michael Chandler and Douglas Lima will put their belts on the line against lightweight Brent Primus and welterweight Lorenz Larkin. Another title bout is part of the preliminary card broadcast on Spike TV as Phil Davis defends the light heavyweight belt against Ryan Bader.
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Saturday: Bellator 180 (PPV), New York
Sunday: UFC Fight Night 112 (FS1), Oklahoma City
July 7: “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 25 Finale (FS1), T-Mobile Arena
July 8: UFC 213 (FS1/PPV), T-Mobile Arena