Kevin Lee entered UFC 244 in a bit of a purgatory state.
After a one-bout stint at welterweight resulted in a fourth-round submission loss to Rafael dos Anjos this past May, “The Motown Phenom” returned to a division where he was once regarded as one of the top rising stars in the sport. However, a five-round defeat in a rematch with Al Iaquinta at 155 pounds prompted Lee’s brief change in weight class, and the 27-year-old seemed far removed from the days when he was on the brink of title contention.
Lee changed the narrative at Madison Square Garden, however, scoring a spectacular first-round knockout of the previously unbeaten Gregor Gillespie. A head kick removed Gillespie from consciousness and simultaneously re-established Lee as a person of interest at 155 pounds.
Lee, who fell to Tony Ferguson in an interim lightweight title bout in October 2017, claimed to feel reborn in the Octagon on Saturday night.
“It feels great to get back into the win column. Coming off two losses, it eats at you some days, so it’s been a lot,” Lee said. “It’s been a lot to get to this point, years and years just to get to that kick. It feels f—-ng good. I think that’s the cleanest knockout of my career. I think it’s something that he wasn’t expecting and that a lot of guys down at 155 weren’t expecting.
“I’m coming with a whole different type of power that these guys ain’t seen me throw before. I haven’t even shown half of my game yet. I’ve got a lot of fights in the UFC, but I seriously feel like I’m just starting.”
Although he is just 27 years old, Lee sports an 11-5 record within the Las Vegas-based promotion. Following the recent stretch that saw him lose three of four bouts, Lee elected to move his training camp to Tristar Gym in Montreal. He credits that transition for his success against Gillespie and is excited to see what the future holds as his career progresses.
“I was saying even before this fight, regardless of how it went, I feel that going up to Tristar made me a better fighter. It made me more focused,” he said. “I’ve always had the talent and the skills, but it’s been hard for me to put everything together, and now I feel like I’ve found the perfect place and the perfect guide to do that.
“[Lightweight] is the place for me from here on out. I got a title to get. I started my career here, and this is where I’m going to shine.”