Now that Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez have officially been named the head coaches of TUF 26, there are two fighters who were noticeably left behind: Kevin Lee, who had publicly lobbied to coach alongside Gaethje; and Dustin Poirier, who seemed to be set on a rematch against Eddie Alvarez after the controversial UFC 211 no contest.
In an interview with MMAJunkie’s Chamatkar Sandhu, Kevin Lee joined many MMA fans in the confusion of the UFC’s matchmaking decision:
“I’m a little disappointed. A little frustration. Because I think you even ask anybody in the UFC, and they say, this is the better fight to make. That’s the better TV. If they really wanted to push TUF, I think that would have been the better option. And I think if you ask anybody in the know, they would have said the same thing.”
Kevin Lee has been turning out one entertaining interview after another, and granting him a weekly platform to hype a fight against arguably the instant fan favorite of UFC up-and-comers, Justin Gaethje, would have been money in every sense of the word.
Alvarez is on the downslide momentum-wise, although he, like Gaethje, just partook in a war. The best possible reason for the UFC matchmakers to run with Alvarez over Lee is that Alvarez and Gaethje would be more likely to create an instant classic like Johnson/Gaethje was and like Alvarez/Poirier would have been considered if not for the controversial ending.
The other possible rationale would be the UFC does indeed want to rebook Lee/Chiesa after that controversial stoppage, which would make sense.
So what we have is two controversial endings, but out of those endings, only one had a former champion. And between that former champion and Kevin Lee….the former champion just happens to be a better matchup stylistically for the man they are trying to push. Unfortunately, they may be putting this push over the push for the show itself, as well as the fighters who would benefit from a better television product.
“You got Eddie and you got Gaethje, who are both brain dead,” continues Lee. “They’re going to go in there and they’re going to talk, and they’re going to slur some words at each other, and nobody’s going to watch. It’s going to be terrible. I feel sorry for the women on the show because they aren’t going to get as much eyeballs.”
Eddie Alvarez (28-5 MMA) and Justin Gaethje (18-0 MMA) will host The Ultimate Fighter 26, which will debut Aug. 30 at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT) on FS1.
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