LAS VEGAS – It’s been a while since Kevin Lee has made a walk to the UFC’s octagon, but after a pair of knee surgeries and time to refocus, he’s ready to make another run.

At UFC on ESPN 30, Lee (18-6 MMA, 11-6 UFC) will return to the welterweight division to face a short-notice replacement opponent, Daniel Rodriguez. Lee was originally scheduled to face Sean Brady, but an undisclosed injury forced him to the sidelines, thus canceling their matchup for the second time.

Over 17 months ago, Lee was last seen in action against the newly crowned lightweight champion Charles Oliveira at UFC on ESPN+ 28. It was a fight he lost by way of third-round submission, the first of a few frustrating events in 2020. Lee suffered a torn ACL in his left knee and underwent surgery to repair it, just to go back under the knife a few months later to repair a torn ACL in his right knee.

“There’s been a growing process, for sure,” Lee told MMA Junkie and other reporters at the UFC Apex on Wednesday. “There’s one thing in just kind of sitting out and not taking (fights) a couple of times, but there’s another in not being able to do it. So, going through my knee surgeries and barely even being able to walk, and run, and jump, it took a while for me to really get that itch again and really be able to scratch it.”

While recovering from two knee surgeries in the same calendar year, Lee used the time to stay out of the spotlight and reset to prepare for a strong comeback when he felt the time was right. He believes that time is now and at welterweight where he has competed previously, despite being a lightweight for most of his career.

Although his matchup against Brady fell through twice, he was happy Rodriguez stepped up when no one else would, just so he could get a fight. Admittedly, he wasn’t completely aware of what Rodriguez brought to the table, but after a little research and information relayed by those close to him, Lee discovered he’s in for a challenge – and that excites him.

“He’s solid,” Lee said. “He’s a good Mexican southpaw boxer, and that style has given me trouble in the past, so it’s gonna answer a lot of questions for me.

UFC on ESPN 30 takes place Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The main card airs on ESPN and streams on ESPN+ following prelims on ESPN+.

Check out the full media day interview with Lee in the video above.


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