You might think that Kevin Lee, who isn’t even ranked in the top 15 of the UFC lightweight division as of yet, has no right to be calling out two-weight champion Conor McGregor at this stage in his career, but Lee’s expletive-laden post-fight speech at UFC Belfast has certainly earned him plenty of attention.
Had the 24-year-old Detroit native known that McGregor was actually in attendance at the SSE Arena on Saturday night though, his name might have been on even more lips come Sunday morning.
“I actually didn’t know that. Was he here?” Lee asked when he was informed of McGregor’s presence during a post-fight media scrum (via MMAJunkie). “Damn, I would have jumped the cage.”
“He had to be front row right? All Irish guys look alike. I wish I would have known. Somebody could have told me. They’re all just red beards and bald heads to me.”
Now that would have been a sight, after all it wasn’t so long ago that McGregor was the brash, unproven young fighter leaping out of the octagon to get in the face of a UFC champion.
On Saturday night, he was jumping in the opposite direction, to celebrate teammate Artem Lobov’s decision win over Teruto Ishihara.
Instead of hopping the fence following his win over Magomed Mustafaev, Lee boasted of his wrestling skills and assured fans that he could “put McGregor on his back right now in this arena and there isn’t a motherfucker in this arena that would stop me.”
Moments later, surrounded by the world’s MMA media, Lee once again expressed the belief that he is the 155-pound division’s best wrestler but added that he also has some other attributes key to beating the new champion.
“I think after his last fight, [McGregor] said you’ve got to have some height, some reach, some weight [to give him a fight],” said Lee. “I’m 195 pounds outside of fighting, 77-inch reach, 5-10, a hell of a wrestler,” he added.
McGregor did indeed make that claim after he dispatched of the shorter, stockier Eddie Alvarez with surprising ease at UFC 205. The SBG representative certainly hadn’t been pushed to the extent that he had against the rangy Nate Diaz in his previous two contests.
Lee, though not quite as tall as Diaz, actually has a longer reach than the Stockton native by an inch. He may not possess a Brazilian jiu-jitsu game as threatening as Nate’s but he has scored his fair share of submissions, including one on Saturday night in Belfast, and he has a much better wrestling game than Diaz. With his grappling credentials and size, Lee has the potential to develop into the kind of fighter that could cause McGregor problems in the future.