UFC lightweight Kevin Lee has said it may be "a few years" before he returns to the Octagon following his latest defeat against Charles Oliveira at UFC Brasilia on Saturday.
Lee (18-6) suffered his fourth defeat in six fights when he tapped to Oliveira via a rear-naked choke in the third round, after which he briefly attempted to continue the fight in his dazed state.
A head-kick knockout of Gregor Gillespie on November 2 encouraged suggestions Lee was back to his old best, but he suggested to MMAFighting.com after Saturday's loss that he's set for a lengthy hiatus:
The Motown Phenom has gone the distance just once in his last 10 fights (six wins, four defeats) and sounded hopeful of a return in future—but not for "a good minute" at least:
"I think lightweight's still my home. I've just got to fine tune some things. But I'm going to take a long time. I kind of rushed into this fight. It will probably be a good minute before y'all see me again.
"I think I've got to evaluate some things. I feel like my camp was great. My coaches told me all the right things to do. I abandoned it. It's all on me on this one. It's going to be maybe a few years or so."
MMAFighting confirmed Lee weighed in 2.5 pounds heavier than the 155-pound limit Friday, going on to lose via submission against 29-8 Oliveira:
Lee has struggled for consistency in recent years, but Oliveira is now on a seven-win streak and deserved his praise for besting one of the biggest threats in the lightweight division, per USA Today's Mike Bohn:
It wasn't long ago that the 27-year-old was rumoured as a UFC lightweight title contender. Lee had 16 wins and only two defeats before he met Tony Ferguson at UFC 216 in October 2017 when he suffered the first of his most recent four losses.
Lee looked confused with the referee's decision initially but later clarified: "I got choked. I think the fight was going good. I just got choked. I really can’t put it on nothing else but that."
UFC welterweight Jorge Masvidal criticised Lee for what he called a "b---h move" in first missing weight and then scrambling to continue after the tap.
Most professional sports have been suspended in response to the coronavirus, but UFC President Dana White told SportsCenter no events will be cancelled unless there's a "complete government shutdown":
Lee made his UFC debut in a unanimous-decision loss to Al Iaquinta at UFC 169 in February 2014 when he was 21 years old.
He is fortunate that he can afford to take a prolonged absence from the sport and is still young enough to bank on a future with the promotion when he returns.