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But it wasn’t until his most recent bout, a UFC Fight Night 128 headliner opposite Edson Barboza (19-6 MMA, 13-6 UFC), that Lee (17-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC) failed to make weight. Lee was the winner with a fifth-round TKO, but not only was the victory a little tarnished, but he also had to give up 20 percent of his fight purse after coming in one pound over the 156-pound limit for the non-title bout.
Since then, Lee has repeatedly apologized for the unfortunate career first, saying that it ultimately came down to timing.
“It was frustrating,” Lee said after the win. “Everything inside me wanted to clam up. I never missed weight before in my life. It was just a mistiming thing. I feel like if I would have had an extra 15 minutes, man, I would have had that down. But as soon as it happened, it happened.”
Speaking to MMAjunkie Radio, Lee’s coach, Dewey Cooper, corroborated the contender’s comments about unfortunate timing, and presented the facts – which, he clarifies, is not the same as excuses – of what unfolded that April 20 morning in Atlantic City, N.J.
“The plan that morning was to go to the sauna at 5 a.m.,” Cooper said. “We had talked to the people in the spa area. They said absolutely it will be open for the fighters. So we were going to jump in the sauna for 30 minutes, get the sweat going, and then start the weight cut. …
“We get to the sauna at 5 a.m., and no one’s there. We’re knocking. The (expletive) is locked up. We get on the phone, get security. They come down. They’re like, ‘No, the gym is not open.’ They call someone at the front desk, management or whatever, and they say it will be open at 5:30.”
According to Cooper, they then went back to the room and gave it a few more minutes. But after coming down again, at about 5:40 a.m. this time, the place was still locked up.
“We’re freaking out, calling, knocking,” Cooper said. “They said, ‘We’re sorry, the gym won’t be open until 8 a.m.’”
By then, they’d lost 50 minutes that would end up being crucial. Had they started the cut at 5 a.m. as planned, Cooper pondered, there would have been no issue making weight. Still, they went back to the room, where Lee proceeded to go into the tub. Things were going well up there, with a pound-and-a-half to go with 20 minutes left, but then Lee was instructed to come down for the official weigh-in.
“They called and said if we’re not down there by 10:59, on the scale, the fight is going to be canceled,” Cooper said. “He will not be able to fight. So we had to stop the cut and run downstairs to the scale, and the world’s seen what happened. We were 10 minutes away from making weight.”
This wasn’t Lee’s first time struggling with the scale; when he met Tony Ferguson at UFC 216, with the promotion’s interim lightweight title on the line, he failed to hit the 155-pound mark on his first try. The meeting was in Las Vegas, though, and the local commission gave Lee another hour to cut the excess pound – which he did.
In Atlantic City, though, the commission wouldn’t allow for the extra time to make weight after his miss. And that’s the type of inconsistency that Cooper ultimately takes issue with.
“These different rules, state to state, it’s ridiculous,” Cooper said. “It needs to be a uniform rule. In Nevada, (if) we have an hour to two, we make weight with no problem. In California, we make weight with no problem.”
MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.
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