Kevin Lee to Khabib Nurmagomedov: ‘You’re Going to Need More Than a Low Single To Scare Me’

Kevin Lee admits it was frustrating watching Khabib Nurmagomedov beat Al Iaquinta at UFC 223 because he knew deep down inside if he was in that fight, he'd be holding the undisputed lightweight title right now.

Khabib Nurmagomedov might be one of the most feared fighters in the UFC but Kevin Lee was one of the few people asking for that fight long before the Russian was standing tall as undisputed champion.

Actually Lee spent the better part of 2017 calling out Nurmagomedov in hopes of exposing the undefeated lightweight after he built such an intimidating reputation by mauling virtually every opponent who dared step into the cage with him.

Nurmagomedov didn’t end up at 26-0 by accident because he’s never lost a single round in the UFC while possessing lopsided wins over fighters such as Rafael dos Anjos, Michael Johnson and Edson Barboza.

Still, Lee has always felt that Nurmagomedov was vulnerable to the right opponent and watching him defeat Al Iaquinta at UFC 223 to become champion was only further proof of what he’s always believed — that he is the man to finally hand him a loss.

“I’ve been calling out Khabib for years and years and years. I want that fight. These dudes, they’re so scared of him,” Lee said ahead of his next bout at UFC Fight Night in Atlantic City. “They ended up giving it to [Al] Iaquinta when a couple of weeks before he said he would never fight the man. He went out there and you could see it. He didn’t go out there to win the fight.

“He went out there to survive. He was scared. He was fighting scared the whole time.”

Lee’s criticisms of Iaquinta aside, the fight still ended up as an interesting matchup because after the first two rounds were finished, Nurmagomedov largely abandoned his wrestling in favor of a striking battle with the former “Ultimate Fighter” contestant.

Nurmagomedov still won those exchanges but he definitely left a lot of openings in those final three rounds that made the Russian look human for the first time in his UFC career.

“It showed the holes that I already knew were there,” Lee said. “You had Joe Rogan, he had that light bulb moment it seems. I’ve been seeing those holes for years now. I think Iaquinta showed some holes and if you would have had somebody in there with a little bit more preparation, then it would have shown the holes even more.”

For all the ways that Nurmagomedov has been dominant during his run in the UFC, Lee says that he’s also been wildly predictable and that’s why he’s so desperate to get to him before anybody else can expose his flaws inside the Octagon.

It’s always special to be the first person to beat a fighter and Lee is more than confident that he would cause Nurmagomedov headaches like he’s never felt before throughout his entire mixed martial arts career.

“You’re going to need more than a low single to scare me,” Lee said about Nurmagomedov. “He’s out there trying to pull off the Randy Couture-James Toney and those days are long behind us. I’m here to show the evolution in the game. Yeah, there’s a little bit of frustration and yeah there’s a little bit of impatience but when I really sit back, the fight game is all about timing.

“The more time I get to build this fight up and the more I show against other guys, then the bigger that fight will be.”

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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.
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