Ex-UFC title contender Kevin Lee has moved to Miami to join Khabib Nurmagomedov’s Eagle FC at its new base as the former champion continues to build his promotion beyond Russia – and the new signing had words about Conor McGregor.
Former lightweight king Nurmagomedov revealed that his championship will be introducing 165lb and 175lb weight divisions as it continues to grow, adding Lee – who spent seven-and-a-years with the UFC – to the lighter new category.
Sitting alongside Sergei Kharitonov, who will headline Eagle FC’s first event in the US when he faces Tyrone Spong on January 28, Lee inevitably fielded questions about the desire he expressed to face Nurmagomedov during his career.
Lee called out Nurmagomedov in December 2018 and appeared to question the calibre of opponents the Dagestani had faced in August 2021.
From fighting khabib to fighting for khabib … woah
— Rahul Vaithinathan (@RahulVaithinat1) December 15, 2021
“Life is amazing sometimes,” said the 29-year-old, claiming that the presence of Nurmagomedov had persuaded him to sign for his new promotion.
“I’ve said a lot about the man in the past; I’ve said I wanted to fight him and test myself against him.
“I only want to do that with people I respect. Since his retirement, that respect has grown – so I’m happy to go in there and shed some blood.
“It’s better to be partners and work together on this and grow something without having to fight each other.
“By doing this, I think we can move the sport on from the bullsh*t, the Conor McGregor style of trash-talking and all this.
Kevin Lee looks to make his debut on March, 11
The full Eagle Fight club press-conference in Miami coming soon on our YouTube channel
— RT Sport (@RTSportNews) December 15, 2021
Khabib watching kevin Lee's first fight in Eagle FC against the guy that beats him up in the gym pic.twitter.com/mDqd7gXIiy
— Beardedstoner (@BeardedStoneRR) December 15, 2021
“I haven’t hit my prime yet and, to have him help me get to my prime, that’s more important than us fighting each other.
“Free agency is amazing. I had so many offers and really got to test what I was worth. I chose to go with Khabib because he’s been there and done that, he’s a great champion. The evolution of the sport is for us to become our own promoters.”
When Nurmagomedov retired from the sport with an unbeaten record in October 2020, he ended a career that included a win over McGregor in 2018 which was acrimonious even by his opponent’s foul-mouthed standards.
Nurmagomedov said the full range of divisions in his championship have not been decided.
Khabib says BMF belt doesn’t make sense and jokes about creating belt for humble fighters
“Maybe Kevin Lee wanna fight for this belt.”
— Stiopic (@stiopic_) December 15, 2021
— Tito The Nostradumbass ⚒️ (@NotTitoAgain) December 15, 2021
“I’m really grateful that Eagle FC is willing to do a 165lb division – I think it’s going to benefit a lot of guys,” enthused Lee, who fought at the 155lb lightweight limit and 170lb welterweight cut-off for the UFC.
“I’m the best in the world at that weight; I’ve said that for a long time and it’s a big part of the reason why I’m coming over.
“There’s never been a world champion at 165; there have been champions at 155, at 170. I’ll be the first one and it feels nice to make a little piece of history for mixed martial arts.
“A 165 division is brand new but, when we look back on this in future generations and times, this will be the first one and I think that will be history in the making.
“They’ve done it in boxing, they’ve added weight classes, then people come after them. That’s what we’re doing here.”
His newest signing’s relocation is a sign of the globe-crossing appeal Nurmagomedov wants Eagle FC to have, and he said that women’s divisions could also be created in the future.
“I don’t want people to call this a promotion from Russia,” he explained. “This is now a global promotion. Our headquarters are going to be here in Miami.
“We’re still going to make events around the world but our home is going to be here in Miami. Next year, we will make maybe seven or eight shows here.
“If we talk about 2023, we are going to make a couple of shows every month. Next year, we have a very big year. It’s very exciting and I can’t wait.”
Lee lost on his final UFC outing in August, a result he hopes to reverse when he makes his expected return on March 11. He remains impressed by Nurmagomedov and his new employers.
“I’ve seen his rise through the UFC, I know how hard it is to be a champion and how hard it is to stay a champion,” he said.
“That’s one thing, but then I was able to see what he was able to do outside the cage in supporting his teammates and training other people. Now he’s getting into promoting and I give him credit for that.
“It’s amazing. Walking into this building feels like a fresh start. I can feel a new energy and to be around a great champion – and great champions in the past – I feel like it’s big shoes to fill and I’m here to do that.”