Kevin Lee knew fight week was going to be tough for him without his head coach Robert Follis.
Tragically, Follis died late last year after serving as head coach for dozens of top fighters and champions over the years including extensive work with Lee as he was building himself into a top 10 lightweight.
Lee admitted after his win over Edson Barboza on Saturday night that it was strange not having Follis in his corner or with him during fight week, but it was just another experience that he had to push through en route to getting the job done inside the Octagon.
“My heart is still heavy,” Lee said about Follis’ passing after the fight. “I still feel some of those things. It’s still something that I’m going to have to go back and sew up. Not having Robert Follis with me this whole week has been kind of weighing on me a little bit. But it’s just going to be another layer to it. It’s just another layer to my life, the evolution. It’s going to be something I still address.”
Kevin Lee is out to prove that he's more than just a wrestler pic.twitter.com/dEffMmU7gK
— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) April 22, 2018
As it turns out, Lee’s head coach still played a major part in his victory after he was caught by a spinning heel kick courtesy of Barboza in the third round.
After dominating the fight for the first 10 minutes, Lee got clipped by an explosive kick from Barboza that left him on wobbly legs, barely being able to stay on his feet until he rushed forward looking for the takedown.
Lee was definitely rattled but he somehow survived before turning things back around to earn the fifth round TKO against Barboza.
According to Lee, it was during that scary moment when he heard his coach’s voice in his head helping him calm down and get back into the fight.
“Even when he hurt me, I could still hear his voice,” Lee said about Follis. “He was always the calmest dude in the world. He commanded the room.
“When I was hurt, when I was down, he was in my head still commanding me. So I just listened to him and keep moving and pushing forward.”
With the win, Lee will move into the top five rankings for the UFC for the first time in his career as he continues to push into title contention in 2018.