Kevin "Motown Phenom" Lee - Photo by Sean Pokomy-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Lee: Conor McGregor ‘has to convince me that he’s worthy of a fight with me’

Kevin Lee might be the only person not gunning for a fight with Conor McGregor right now

There’s no denying that Conor McGregor is the biggest draw in all of mixed martial arts and he’s often joked that an opponent’s life will change with the payday they receive from fighting him inside the Octagon.

It’s hard to deny McGregor’s proclamation considering the gaudy numbers he’s pulled on pay-per-view and at the box office while turning past opponents such as Nate Diaz into multi-millionaires.

That said, Kevin Lee isn’t all that concerned about cashing in on a big payday by facing McGregor after he gets through his fight this weekend against Tony Ferguson at UFC 216. 

While money should always matter to a prize fighter, Lee wants to establish himself as the best lightweight in the world and that’s why he wanted to face someone like Ferguson or why he spent months calling out undefeated Russian smashing machine Khabib Nurmagomedov.

“What he’s making in his pocket ain’t really gonna take anything out of mine,” Lee said about McGregor when speaking to the Fight Society podcast. “I’m still gonna make the same amount of money. I’m going to go out, I’m going to defend versus Khabib [Nurmagomedov]. I’m taking on the toughest challenges.

“I’m doing his dirty work for him.”

McGregor has recently stated that he hadn’t decided on an opponent when he most likely returns to the UFC in 2018 but did say specifically that he would be keeping an eye on the interim lightweight title fight between Ferguson and Lee this weekend.

The other possibility still remains that McGregor faces old foe Nate Diaz for a third time, which would undoubtedly be the most lucrative fight for the reigning lightweight champion as well as for the UFC.

If that’s what McGregor wants, Lee couldn’t care less if that’s what he wants to chase after because after Saturday night is over, he plans on crowning himself as the true champion at 155 pounds.

In fact, Lee says that if McGregor really wants to prove he’s the best lightweight in the world, the Irishman is going to have to convince him that he’s worthy of a title shot.

“He’s fighting somebody with 10 or 11 losses and I’m calling out the guys who are undefeated,” Lee said. “Tony Ferguson, he’s got one loss in the UFC but even that was so long ago his style was so different and he’s on a massive win streak and you ask anybody, he’s the toughest fight in this division hands down. I think he’s been the No. 1 contender for a long time. I’m doing [Conor] a favor, I’m taking out the dirty work for him. Both Tony and Khabib would be favored over Conor in a hypothetical fight so I’m willing to take them out before jumping down to the small fish.

“If anything, Conor has to convince me that he’s worthy of a fight with me. When he do that, we might talk.”

Lee will try to secure his spot as the interim lightweight champion on Saturday night at UFC 216 from Las Vegas.

Listen to the rest of Kevin Lee’s interview via the Fight Society podcast here or download and subscribe to the show via Apple Podcasts.

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Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the industry since 2003 with bylines on FOX Sports, CNN, Bleacher Report and numerous other outlets.