One-time interim lightweight title challenger Kevin Lee is once again a UFC fighter.
Lee, 30, has re-signed with the promotion one year after being released from contract, a person with knowledge of his new deal confirmed to MMA Fighting after an initial report from ESPN.com.
In a statement to ESPN.com, Lee said his new contract came after a meeting with UFC President Dana White and UFC COO Hunter Campbell: “I feel like I’m going back home. I’m grateful for them welcoming me back and looking forward to the next chapter of my career.”
Lee hinted at turning over a new leaf with the promotion this past weekend, posting on social media a photo with the UFC execs.
Things weren’t so warm between Lee and UFC brass in December 2021. The veteran lightweight, once a fast-rising contender in the division, bristled at the way he was released from his contract eight years into his relationship with the promotion. According to Lee, no one from the UFC executive team initially reached out to let him know what happened.
“I’ve done all this s*** for y’all,” he said. “I’ve put myself and my body on the line just to end up with an alcohol problem and a tax problem, and at the end of the day, you take my respect away from me, too? It’s like OK, well s***. I’m going to stop right there.”
After hitting the open market, Lee signed with the upstart Eagle FC promotion and fought UFC Hall of Famer Diego Sanchez, who’d also recently been released by the UFC. He won a decision in a “super lightweight” bout at 165 pounds to snap a 1-4 slump in the octagon that included losses to now-former champs Charles Oliveira and Rafael dos Anjos.
Lee also signed with longtime manager Ali Abdelaziz, who is well known behind the scenes for patching relationships between aggrieved fighters and UFC management.
According to Lee, he expects to make his octagon return in spring.