Lee (19-8) hung up his gloves after being submitted in under a minute by Rinat Fakhretdinov in July last year. “The Motown Phenom” recently announced his decision to come out of retirement which was seemingly flamed by a conversation with his mother. While Lee was already having trouble staying away from fighting, an observation made by his mother made the axe fall, Lee told Middle Easy:
“It’s a long time coming. I’ve probably been thinking about it for the last two months or so. The one that really kind of pushed me over the edge was a conversation that I had with my mom. She said that the smile in my soul is gone. I remember repeating it back to her to make sure I heard it right. I was like, 'man, that’s deep.’"
“My takeaway from it was just that I needed to fight again. It had already kind of been, like, in my mind. It had already been something that I keep being driven to. When she said that, I was like, ‘OK, what am I going to do?’ I’m 31 now. If I’m going to make a run, now is the time, and I don’t want to live with no regrets. I really need to see this thing through. I need to see my life through and feel good for myself.”
Lee was previously released by the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2021 after going 1-4 since 2018 and earned his way back to the promotion with a decision win over fellow UFC vet Diego Sanchez under the Eagle FC banner. Lee’s fight with Fakhretdinov marked his return to the Las Vegas-based promotion, a booking he regrets accepting.
“It was a dumb fight,” Lee said. “It was stupid. I knew my knee was torn to shreds the entire time. It was the worst training camp that I ever had. I couldn’t even spar or go hard in the training camp at all. That fight was purely just out of pride and ego of me being cut from the UFC and not on the terms that I would have liked. Then, me kind of getting this opportunity and letting my pride take over and say that I’ll do it. In hindsight, it was a terrible decision.”
After competing at catchweight and welterweight, Lee intends to return to competition at lightweight, where he had challenged for the interim title.
“At the end of the day, we’ve got to cut weight. If you want to compete, you’re going to have to cut the weight, and that’s what it is for me. I can make the weight. That’s where my most success comes from. That’s what my frame is built for... Me trying to pack on the pounds and go to 170, not only was it bad for my joints and bad for my knees, but it made me slower and it was unsuccessful. I’m glad that I did it to know what would happen, but, yeah, I’m kind of happy to leave that behind me.”