Kevin Lee has suggested that he made UFC Lightweight Champion Charles Oliveira into a “championship-level” fighter.
In his last appearance in the Octagon, Lee faced Oliveira in the main event of UFC Fight Night 170 last March. Less than 30 seconds into the third round, “Do Bronx” submitted Lee with a guillotine choke. Having also missed weight by 2.5 pounds prior to the fight, the event was a rough one for “The Motown Phenom.”
And while Lee took an extended break on the side-lines, Oliveira went on to dominate former Interim UFC Lightweight Champion Tony Ferguson nine months later, before being crowned champion with a TKO victory over Michael Chandler at UFC 262 in May.
Despite Oliveira already riding a six-fight winning streak that included finishes in every bout heading into his first fight of 2020, Lee has suggested that the 31-year-old only became title-worthy after their matchup in Brazil.
During a recent appearance on Ariel Helwani’s The MMA Hour, Lee was asked whether Oliveira’s championship success surprised him. In response, the 28-year-old cited the part he played as the reason he isn’t shocked that the Brazilian reached the lightweight mountaintop.
“No, I’m not surprised at all. I said it in the post-fight interview. I kinda gave it to him. I kinda made the man. He bossed up after that fight. He grew a lot after that fight. Yeah, I feel like I kinda gave it to him. I kinda made him for what it is.”
According to Lee, he allowed “Do Bronx” to grow into an elite fighter when he didn’t take the 28-fight UFC veteran seriously enough inside the Nilson Nelson Gymnasium in Brasilia.
“And I underestimated him before the fight. I didn’t want a championship-level fight, and I took his thinking that he wasn’t that, and I made him that. So I’m not surprised one bit. 10 minutes after the fight, I knew he’d be the champ,” added Lee.
While Oliveira looks ahead to his first title defense, which will likely be against Dustin Poirier following his two victories over Conor McGregor this year, Lee will look to find his own success when he returns to the welterweight division this weekend at UFC Vegas 35.
After a matchup with #14-ranked Sean Brady fell through at UFC 264 and for the upcoming event, Lee issued an open challenge for Saturday’s card. It was answered by the in-form Daniel Rodriguez. “The Motown Phenom” will hope to match Oliveira’s rise to the top in his new home at 170 pounds, starting with a victory over “D-Rod.”
Do you think Kevin Lee played a part in Charles Oliveira’s development into a UFC champion?