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Kevin Lee on UFC press conference back-and-forth, appreciation for Ben Askren's real-life troll ways

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ATLANTA – Kevin Lee is currently booked to meet Rafael dos Anjos at UFC on ESPN+ 9, but it was an interaction with another UFC welterweight that stood out last week.

During the promotion’s seasonal press conference, which took place in Atlanta the day before UFC 236, Lee was asked about a potential match-up with Ben Askren. Lee expressed interest in a “good little clash of styles” before switching his focus back to dos Anjos, and Askren made sure to chime in with a walk through memory lane.

Askren, who’s got a fight scheduled with Jorge Masvidal, recalled a training session with Lee at coach Duke Roufus’ gym years ago. In the back-and-forth that ensued, Askren mocked Lee’s inability to stop his takedowns, while Lee talked about his striking superiority.

Things never got downright hostile, though. And, judging by Lee’s account of the interaction while attending UFC 236 the following day, he doesn’t seem to have taken it too personally.

“We both told two halves of the same story,” Lee told reporters, including MMA Junkie, backstage at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena. “As he’s moving around, he’s just coming at me real square, real slow. And I’m like, OK, I’m stepping into his gym, for the first time. I’m 20 years old, I’m not even in the UFC yet. Duke is kind of giving me the chance, so I’m like, ‘I don’t want to go there and just knock this dude out.’ Even though … it probably could have happened.

“The good things is, this ain’t a wrestling match. If we ever was to fight, then he’ll see. He’s still hanging his head on one takedown that he got over me, so what does that tell you?”

Lee (17-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC) is set to return to the octagon on May 18, when he meets dos Anjos (28-11 MMA, 17-9 UFC) in the headliner of UFC on ESPN+ 9 in Rochester. Askren (19-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), in turn, is currently booked to meet Masvidal (33-13 MMA, 10-6 UFC) at UFC 239, which takes place in Las Vegas on July 6.

The meeting with dos Anjos will be Lee’s debut as a UFC welterweight and he’s made it clear that the former lightweight champion currently has his full respect and attention. But, looking into the future of a promising division, he already sees some interesting match-ups with a little history to spice things up.

That’s the case with fellow former lightweights Anthony Pettis and Jorge Masvidal, Lee says, and, “if he is to keep winning,” Askren. That doesn’t come from a place of animosity, though. If anything, Lee can appreciate the way “Funky” goes about his outside-the-cage persona.

“He’s just speaking his mind, so I can appreciate that in a person,” Lee said. “If somebody asks you a question, you’ve got something to say, then go ahead and say it. I can respect that out of a person. And it don’t really seem he’s going over the top with it, either. He’s just speaking louder than the person next to him. And if that’s his truth, and that’s what he sees, then how can I hate? It makes it more fun for me, really.

“I don’t see why people even turn down and back down from them type challenges. I kind of like a little bit of back-and-forth. And I want to see what you’ve got to say, too. If dos Anjos could do it – the man speaks fluent English. He’s going to act like he don’t, but he could. But some people, if that ain’t you, that ain’t you. But you can tell that’s Ben Askren, when he do that. He’s a troll, like in real life. That’s really what he do. So I don’t expect nothing different from him.”

To hear from Lee, check out the video above.

And for more on UFC on ESPN+ 9 and UFC 239, visit the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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