UFC lightweight Kevin Lee was disappointed with himself following his loss to Al Iaquinta at UFC Milwaukee.
When Kevin Lee walked into the Octagon at UFC Milwaukee, there was an overwhelming sense of familiarity. Not only was this the fourth consecutive fight card he headlined, but Lee was already acquainted with the man who stood opposite of him: Al Iaquinta.
Lee and Iaquinta met over four years ago at UFC 169. After three rounds, Iaquinta was declared the victor by unanimous decision and Lee suffered the first defeat of his professional career. Fast forward to 2018 and Lee and Iaquinta were set to run it back, but this time the result would be different. Or, at least it was supposed to be, according to Lee.
Despite a strong showing in the opening rounds of the fight, Lee started to fade a bit in the final rounds, which Iaquinta capitalized on with immense pressure and sharp striking. Punctuated with a near finish in the fifth, Iaquinta bested Lee yet again on the score cards, earning a unanimous decision.
Lee was visibly disappointed by the fight’s decision and spoke to media backstage about his mindset following the second loss to Iaquinta.
“Devastated. Embarrassed. This sport sometimes has the lowest of lows, and it really don’t feel lower than right now, but I’ll be alright,” said Lee. “I might not get another shot at Al. I’ve fought a lot of great fighters in my career and he’s definitely up there amongst them. We’ll see. We’ll see once everything gets settled down.”
Before the rematch, there was a lot of emphasis placed on the win Iaquinta already had over Lee. Lee, however, didn’t see a need to dwell on that loss too much because of how much both men have developed in their careers since the first outing.
Although he was more confident in his abilities this time around, Lee admitted the loss may have factored into his performance.
“I think I let the mind games play into me a little bit, but I honestly can’t make no excuses,” said Lee. “I had a great camp. It was a great cut. Everything felt on fire tonight. The first three rounds I thought for sure I had them and then I just took my foot off the gas. Those are just tactical mistakes that a guy like me shouldn’t be making and I couldn’t be more disappointed in myself for it.”
A loss at this point in Lee’s career may not bode well for his title aspirations at lightweight, so the next move could be in a new weight class. Lee has had trouble making the 155-pound limit in the past, which ignited talks about him going up to 170, but Lee wasn’t ready to make the leap just yet.
But with this loss to Iaquinta, Lee is ready to talk about it.
“It’s always really hard for me to get down to this weight. People have been telling me especially as the older I’m getting, it’s getting a little bit harder each time, so it might be time for me to make that change,” said Lee. “I knew it about a year ago, but I’m a stubborn son of a b—h so I just tried to kind of make as many adjustments as I can and make it as clean as I can but it’s still very rough for me to get down to this weight. Maybe now it’s just time for me to go up and start looking at other options.”
Another option Lee referred to is the introduction of an entirely new division. For several months now, the idea of creating a 165-pound weight class has intrigued many fighters who compete at lightweight and welterweight. UFC President Dana White has shut down that idea, but fighters like Lee continue to call for its opening in the promotion.
When asked about getting a 165-pound weight class in the UFC, Lee was adamant about it being needed.
“I would hope so. I think it’s long overdue. That’s all I can do is hope at this point,” said Lee. “I was one of the first guys to start talking about it. I’m gonna continue to push for it just cause I think it’s so necessary even if I’m not a part of it. I still think 165 is coming and if they do, then maybe I might look to there and see if I could prolong my body a little bit more. I definitely was feeling it going into that fifth round.”
Lee finishes the year going 1-1 in two bouts.