Everyone is always searching for that “next big thing” in the sports work whether it is a rookie sensation like RG3 of the Redskins or a young team on the verge of breaking out and winning a championship like the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA. Well today you are in for a treat as we may have the next superstar in the world of MMA. His story is amazing, his fights have everything fans could look for and he won’t be under the radar for much longer. We here at ArtofMMA.com are proud to introduce to you the one and only Kevin Lee. He is currently 4-0 as a pro but he was 10-0 as an amateur as in the mean fight city of Detroit. Make sure to jump on Twitter and follow him @MoTownPhenom. So take a minute and check out what he has to say and get to know him now because you will be paying to see him fight on Saturday nights very soon!
Hey Kevin thanks for taking time out to talk to us, I know you have perhaps the busiest schedule I have ever seen in an MMA Fighter. You are a junior at Grand Valley State with a full class load and still find time to not only train but do everything that is involved in being a pro fighter. Can you talk to us about your schedule and just how you manage to keep grades up and continue to win fights at a high level?
Lee: Thanks for having me man! Yeah, it is rough. I train at night from 6-9pm then again from 11-1am then get a little sleep, go to class, get work done then back to the gym. My schedule is super tight. But both (MMA and College) are super important to me and I want to excel in both.
Well, it is super impressive and you really define that old saying there is always someone out there working when you are not, but in your case I don’t think there is, you are that guy. Going back to the beginning what got you into the world of MMA?
Lee: My father is a huge boxing fan and I grew up watching the Tyson fights and everything he would put on, that really laid the foundation for my love of combat sports but when I was a sophomore in high school I saw then BJ Penn vs GSP fight and I was hooked right then. I was at the video story and internet watching all the fights I could. I was a wrestler from a young age but it was getting tiresome and when I saw that I knew that was my calling. I am a MMA junkie I watch any fights I can find 24/7 when I am outside of class and I am now in the process of learning Tae Kwon Do so make my game even bigger.
Yeah, GSP and BJ Penn fights can have that affect on people. Looking at your amateur career (10-0) you fought the best that not only Detroit had to throw at you but you also faced guys from all over the world and top gyms like Tristar. A crazy stat I read was the last four guys you fought as an ammy had a combined record of 47-4! People say iron sharpens iron but do you feel you were thrown to the wolves being so new and going against the top guys?
Lee: Definitely man. I was always the underdog in each of my fights and I seemed to always face a hometown hero. You don’t hear a lot of the names like Deven Brown (15-1), Dan Hough and Jacob Butler but those guys are huge names out here and super tough. Detroit doesn’t really get the recognition that it deserves and our fight scene is really super competitive. But looking back I think it gave me a sense that I had something to prove each night. They would have huge crowds and big hype coming in but once that cage door closed it was only me and them.
But my amateur career was a great experience and opened my eyes to the total world of MMA not just what you see on TV. Showed me how important training and preparation was. The amateur scene here isn’t really regulated and the fights are run like pro fights but I change that stuff at all. Everything I have done has made me who I am.
Now your amateur career was only 10 fights long, and a crazy story is that you took your fight on only a couple weeks of training, talk to us about that.
Lee: HAHA couple weeks? It was more like a week. It was a very weird week and I wasn’t even scheduled to fight. I was in the process of signing up for a Jiu Jitsu tournament and I overhead someone talking about an injury on the upcoming MMA card. I said “sign me up” and the next thing I know I am fighting at 170 haha. I trained for like a week and I am a pretty damn good wrestler if I say so myself so I had that to rely on if need be. It was me, my dad and my girlfriend at the fight and I took home the win with a Knockout. I won that fight Friday night and went on to win the Jiu Jitsu tournament the next day as well, it was a crazy weekend haha.
As for my amateur career yeah it was quick but I am happy with the way it went and I only really know that fast paced way of life. I have such a passion for the world of MMA and to be the best that I can put myself through hell to get to the top. It is kind of funny but I was that guy watching TV saying all that mess of “I could do that” and “it doesn’t look that hard”, yeah I can do it but make no mistake it isn’t as easy as TV.
Wow, that is kind of insane! Now you make it out of the amateur ranks and have finished all your fights by KO of submission and you make it to the pros where first three fights go to a decision. Was that frustrating seeing you had finished all prior fights in the first 1 or 2 rounds?
Lee: Extremely frustrating man. When you do what I was able to do as an amateur and finish all the fights pretty quickly there is a small seed planted in your head asking “what if I go the distance can I make it”. While it sucked to go to the judges it was also helpful in that I proved to myself I can go the full three rounds and it was good to test those deep waters but yeah I want to finish fights. That was also the first time I had been put on my back too so I was able to answer the questions that I had to myself. In my last fight I felt I had something to prove and it was nice to get that finish (submitted Kyle Prepolec at MFL 29).
We hear lots of stories about why people get into the world of MMA like money, fame, bad childhood and others. Why do you fight?
Lee: Man, I love to compete but above all I fight for my family. By that I mean my parents have given me everything in my life and I want to give something back to them and get them out of the ghetto. I stayed in the Lynwood area of Detroit and that isn’t the greatest of all areas and I want to get them out of there. They have done so much for me, for example my mom would ride the bus with me to the suburbs so I could get to wrestling practice. My father is the hardest working person I know, yet he always makes the time to be at my fights and help me with anything. I love them and I feel they deserve better, so I am out to give them that.
That is perhaps the best answer I have ever seen to that question and your parents should be proud (I am sure they are) of the man they have raised. Now you had mentioned your father is a big boxing fan and you seem to be a very keen student of the game, who are your top 3 boxers and MMA fighters of all time and why?
Lee: Boxing would go Floyd Maywether Jr and I know I will get flack for that but I think he is a defensive genius and is perhaps the best pure boxer out there. 2nd would be Roy Jones Jr because in his hayday he was a physical freak and just from another planet, last I would but Ali because he changed the game for everyone. He wasn’t the most technical fighter but he did his thing in and out of the ring and that hadn’t been done before.
For MMA I would have to put BJ first, he is the most skilled MMA artist in the world. After him I would put GSP (yeah I know I am biased with those two because it was the first fight I ever saw), I got to meet him and that was the best moment ever. 3rd would have to go to Jose Aldo he is an incredible athlete and amazing to watch.
Very impressive list! And at 20 years old to name a guy like Roy Jones Jr just shows you really are a student of the game, amazing! Now two fights ago you fought one of your toughest fights vs J.P. Reece (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiVCJ3xJmWc ). That was a great fight and has some interesting back story to it, tell us a little about it.
Lee: Man that fight and lead up was crazy. First I injured my hamstring before the fight so I went in injured and I wasn’t even supposed to be fighting JP. I was set to fight Eric Moon who is a striker but I get to the arena for weigh ins and they tell me that Eric had been put vs a different and Jp’s guy got hurt. So I am thinking here we go again I am gonna get tossed to the wolves.I was already crank from the weight cut and this just made me pissed off but I said “F*ck it why not, it’s only me vs him what’s the worst that can happen”. Keep in mind I had prepared for a striker and JP is an amazing wrestler from Missouri. So here I am in my first fight at The Palace, which is the biggest venue in Detroit and now I am being put in the main event vs a guy who is the exact opposite of everything I trained for. As I got more hydrated I calmed down and got in the zone for the fight.
During the fight I didn’t have time to worry about who he is or what he does I just went to work and got that win. When he took me to the ground I did get a little anxious because it was the first time I had been on my back in a fight and as a wrestler you never want to be on your back. But I was able to get back up and get the win.
Yeah, that is a crazy story. Not many times do you hear exactly what goes on before a fight. Now to that point you still didn’t have a finish but in your last fight you were able to finish off Kyle Prepolec. How relieved were you to finally get a finish?
Lee: I was ecstatic about that. I think I spent more energy celebrating in the back than I did in the fight. I felt like a weight had been lifted and I reassured myself I can finish.
That is always nice. Now the video above (which really brings me back to the days where we didn’t have professionally shot videos) really gives us a sense of how amazing your fans are, can you give us your views on them?
Lee: Simply put I have the best fans in the world. I may not have a ton but the ones I have are a huge reason I do what I do. The drive me before, during and after the fight to be the best that I can. That Reece fight was extremely frustrating for me because I wanted to put on a show for the fans and I am sure it looked like a wrestling match which can be boring. I am here to put on a show for them and thankfully I was able to get back to form in that last fight. MY fans really are great and want to tell them all thank you!
Now it’s time for the good old fight club question, if you could stand across from the cage from anyone who would it be and why?
Lee: Oh wow, this is a tough one. If I had to choose and I don’t want anyone to think I am trying to be disrespectful or trying to call him out but I would have to choose BJ Penn. He is an idol of mine and I would love to test myself against the most skilled fighter ever in my opinion.
Outstanding! So what is next for Kevin Lee? You are still a young guy with a ton of potential, where do you go next?
Lee: Man, I just keep performing, keep building the confidence, get a couple more finishes and keep building my recognition through my fights. I realize I have about another year until I start getting the real looks from big promotions so I have to just keep doing my thing. I feel I can compete with anyone in the world and I can’t wait to dominate at the next level!
Sounds like you have your sights set! So last question, what kind of advise you would give to someone looking to get into the fight game?
Lee: Man, give it 100% effort, 99% doesn’t work in this game. You can’t half ass anything and as soon as you do or the doubt sets in it all crashes down from there. You also can’t be fickle in this game, this is 90% mental and if you aren’t mentally strong you won’t make it, I saw that a lot in the amateur level and dude just won’t make it if they can’t use their brain.
Sounds about right! So before we let you go are there any sponsors or people you would like to mention?
Lee: I would like to thank my parents for all they have done for me, everyone at Triumph MMA which is the best gym in Detroit! Also my fans for being the best in the world!