Kevin Lee contemplating first title defense against Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 218

Kevin Lee isn't giving up on fighting in his hometown just yet

Before Kevin Lee was offered an interim lightweight title fight against Tony Ferguson at UFC 216, he had been calling out undefeated Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov for weeks.

Immediately after his last win over Michael Chiesa in June, Lee had turned his attention to Nurmagomedov, who hasn’t fought since last year but was rumored to return at some point in December.

Lee couldn’t think of a better opponent to face at UFC 218 in his hometown of Detroit until the promotion came calling with a fight where he would compete for his first championship belt.

That being said, Lee isn’t giving up hope yet on still potentially landing on that Dec. 2 card in Detroit and perhaps making his first title defense against Nurmagomedov later this year.

“We’re going to see after this one. I feel like I can still go out there and defend the title versus Khabib [Nurmagomedov],” Lee told the Fight Society podcast. “If [Conor] McGregor wants to take a little tune up fight, if he wants to fight [Nate] Diaz on Dec. 30, I’ll go ahead and dust off Khabib Dec. 2. in Detroit.”

Lee has been critical of McGregor’s absence from the division while he was concentrating on a boxing match against Floyd Mayweather earlier this year.

McGregor has since said that he’s looking to return to the Octagon most likely in 2018 but rumors persist that he would end up facing old foe Nate Diaz for a third time rather than take on the new interim lightweight champion crowned at UFC 216.

Lee doesn’t seem to care much what McGregor does when he comes back and that’s why he’s willing to face Ferguson now and Nurmagomedov next to solidify his reign as the true lightweight champion in the UFC.

“This is the real lightweight championship and any real fan understands,” Lee said. “The d–k suckers, they don’t [understand] but the real fans, me and Tony both had double digit fights in the division. How can you call a man with one fight in the division the champ?”

Of course, Lee would be making a quick turn around to fight Ferguson on Saturday night and then face someone like Nurmagomedov less than two months later.

If that fight doesn’t come to fruition at UFC 218, Lee is confident he’ll get the chance to hand the Russian his first professional loss at some point down the road and he’ll still be front and center in Detroit to enjoy the fights with his hometown friends and family.

“I’ve still got my eyes on [UFC 218] maybe, but if not then I’m showing up with 12-pounds of gold anyways,” Lee said. “And I’ll just sit in the crowd and actually get to enjoy with my family.”

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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.