Kevin Lee has never been one to mince words in his UFC career. "The Motown Phenom," however, wants to let his actions deliver his message ahead of his UFC Fight Night main event clash with Rafael dos Anjos on Saturday night.
Lee, the former lightweight title challenger, will be moving up to welterweight for the first time. But the rumor is that he's not planning on weighing in at the 170-pound limit on Friday morning.
Lee is believed to be aiming to tip the scale at 165 pounds in order to make a statement to the UFC that a 165-pound division should be created.
So, should the organization start up that new weight class?
This was one topic discussed in this week's Ariel & The Bad Guy episode, streamed exclusively on ESPN+.
Chael Sonnen: Come on, the guy is crazy and he means it. He's going to do it. He's going to weigh in at 165 pounds and he's actually talking to dos Anjos behind the curtain, trying to get him to do the same thing. Ariel, it's these kind of wild plays, it's these kind of strong arm yet passive arrangements that do get companies and organizations and businesses from the beginning of time to reevaluate their own policies. Yes, Ariel, if guys start weighing in at 165, if they go out behind everybody's back, reach these deals, unify together and form a division, at some point, you and I and Dana and the world are going to have to recognize it.
Ariel Helwani: Yeah, I love that. I love the idea, I love the fact that he threw it out. We have yet to hear from RDA, if he's on board, if he's going to do it. But even if RDA doesn't do it, if Kevin Lee actually pulls this off and it's interesting because the narrative going into this fight is that Lee is the guy who needs the extra 15 pounds. He has been killing himself trying to get down to 155, so if he does in fact pull this off and put his money where his mouth is because he's been one of the loudest proponents of trying to open up this weight class, I think it would be a phenomenal move on his part.
And it makes me think about this 165-pound weight class, Chael, because I don't get why they are so against it. Look, if this was 195 and there were a couple of guys campaigning for 195, I would say there's just not enough talent there. There are not enough guys, not enough names, not enough draws, it's just not worth it. I do not think they should open up a 195. But 165 is completely different. I mean, just think of these names, right off the top of my head, who would be all on board for a 165-pound division: Kevin Lee, Jorge Masvidal, Anthony Pettis, Nate Diaz, Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov. Oh, Ben Askren, as well.
Those are some of the biggest stars in this sport. And I know that there's a fear that that would take away from 155. Well, guess what -- 155 is absolutely stacked, the most stacked division in the UFC. And while they continue to be on board with this idea of handing out interim titles almost every pay-per-view, why are you so against opening up a legitimate weight class? One-fifty-five to 170 to 185 to 205, that was cool back in 2003. There's way too many fights, way too many shows: go 155, 165, 175 -- just move [welterweight champion Kamaru] Usman up five pounds, I doubt he minds -- 185, 205, it's perfect. I don't get what the problem is here.
Sonnen: It's very interesting too, right? We've added plenty of divisions, we've even added genders to this sport. We've done all sorts of stuff. No weight class, remember those days? And then for years, 205 and heavyweight -- that was it. Remember when they finally put a middleweight in and Murilo Bustamante came? This was like shocking news. It opened the floodgates for the St-Pierre's and the Matt Hugheses and the B.J. Penns of the world. But Ariel, those were all added unilaterally and then divisions were created. OK, great, Sean Shelby and Joe Silva, they gotta go work and they gotta make some phone calls and they gotta add all these guys to the roster. This is the first time ever where you've got the bodies and they are making a request. To your point, if I'm understanding you correctly, this is an easy one. Everybody seems to want it. Why aren't we fighting at 165 pounds? I don't know the answer.
Helwani: Yeah, I can't recall a time when so many fighters actually agreed on something. We've heard Ben Askren talk about this, we've heard Nate Diaz talk about this, we've heard Kevin Lee talk about this -- these guys could not be any more different as far as their backgrounds and personalities are concerned. Yet here they are, all campaigning. And for whatever reason, Dana [White] never actually gives a reason why he doesn't want to do this. He just says no. Part of me feels like because of his background in boxing, because he's such a big boxing fan and in the early days of the UFC -- remember when there was essentially just five divisions -- then they got rid of lightweight and as you mentioned they started to bring things back. It was very clean, it was very easy to know who the UFC champions were and I think he fears this will water down the belts if you throw in like a super lightweight or whatever you would call this 165-pound weight class.
Well, to that I would say you're already doing this with the interim titles and the only reason why they institute the interim titles is because they always want a title fight at the top of a pay-per-view. Well, everyone hates that word "interim." I'll tell you what they won't hate: it's a 165-pound title fight. Because (A) it's right in between two of the deepest weight classes in the UFC and (B) it's legitimate. Interim titles are not legitimate. And so again I just don't understand why they are so against this. And look at this fight this weekend, let's go back to that: Kevin Lee-RDA. If I told you right now, on this Wednesday, that the UFC has decided to make this fight for a title, would you feel any different about it? Would you feel like it's illegitimate? I feel like you would be on board with that because it would be a legitimate title fight. Those guys deserve to fight for a belt.
Sonnen: Fully agreed.
Helwani: Sorry, I left you with one second. That was rude of me.
Sonnen: You left me with one second -- I was actually going to tell you a story.
Sonnen: I was just going to tell you, in many ways, Kevin Lee changed my career. Kevin Lee came out here to Portland, and when he was out here he got a phone call right in front of me that he was going to fight Tony Ferguson for the world championship. So we gotta get to the gym. It's like five weeks away, kind of short notice, we gotta get to the gym. I spar with Kevin Lee that day. When I get done, I turn to my No. 1 sparring partner, Jake Smith, and we talked to each other behind Kevin's back. And we said, that's what the sport's going to be. We need to learn from what we just felt. We need to start sparring this way. This is the new breed of fighter, and I really think Kevin Lee is that good. But either way, that day changed my entire philosophy from where I'm at in this sport.