After his submission loss to Tony Ferguson for the interim Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight title, Kevin Lee was looking to bounce back with a fight against “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 winner Nate Diaz, who has been inactive since his majority decision loss against Irish superstar Conor McGregor in August 2016. While that fight didn’t come to fruition, Lee instead accepted a bout against Brazilian Edson Barboza at UFC Fight Night 128 on April 21, in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Lee (16-3) was in attendance at UFC 222 over the weekend and talked with MMA Junkie backstage about why the Diaz fight never happened.
“The Nate Diaz fight was there,” Lee said. “I thought it would have been a good fight. I would have wanted to take that one. Nate’s a tough fighter, and a lot of people are real high on him. But the man doesn’t want to fight.
“I’m not a bully,” he said. “If somebody doesn’t want to fight, I’m not going to bother you too much. I’m not going to talk much (expletive) about people that aren’t going to get me where I’m going.
After the fight was scrapped, UFC matchmakers put forward other top ranked opponents, including Edson Barboza and Eddie Alvarez. Lee preferred to fight Barboza, believing the Brazilian to be more of a challenge and the man that will propel him to the title quicker.
“So I like a challenge, and Barboza was the biggest challenge out there right now. It was either Barboza or (Eddie) Alvarez. Eddie, that’s easy money. I like a challenge.”
“I want the biggest challenge, and Barboza hands down is the best striker in lightweight history,” he said. “So when I go and take him out, then I’m going to take that title, too.”