Hot Bods: Kevin Lee, 25 Professional MMA fighter

Text by Sazali Abdul Aziz Picture by Benjamin Seetor

He's stopped lifting weights but ballet's among his moves

Kevin Lee, 25 Professional MMA fighter

Height: 1.75m Weight: 84kg (competes at 70kg)

Exercise regimen: Outside of my training camp, I train between four and six times a week, but I never lift weights. I do a lot of plyometrics (also known as jump training), a lot of stretching, I've incorporated hot yoga, I've incorporated dancing too... Some ballet, some hip hop, Latin, salsa. During my eight-week training camp, I train 90 minutes twice a day, six days a week. I spar once a week, and in the middle of the week, I have an active rest day, where I take things a bit lighter.

Diet: Outside camp, I'm pretty lenient. I get most of my carbs in before 2pm, usually cereal in the morning. Then it's all about balancing. I'll have a beer or two, chicken, rice but I make sure I don't have fried food. I also don't consume sugar after 5pm, because sugar is what makes your body feel lethargic. In camp, I cut out sugar and have lots of protein and healthy fats. But I do have some carbs, either sweet potato or brown rice, just before I train, for the energy.


For those of you who think mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters are only beefy meatheads who pump iron every day to build muscle so they can hit harder, think again.

After all, American MMA fighter Kevin Lee - one of the hottest young stars in the Ultimate Fighting Championship - has sworn off lifting weights.

"I never lift weights any more, I haven't lifted weights since college," the 25-year-old told The Sunday Times in an interview at Siloso Beach earlier this week.

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I feel doing weights slows you down, and clogs up your joints.

KEVIN LEE, the UFC's fifth-ranked lightweight fighter, on his training regimen.

"I feel doing weights slows you down, and clogs up your joints."

One of the secrets behind his six-pack abs and solid, thick physique, said Lee, was ballet dancing.

Yes, you read right, ballet.

With a sheepish grin, he said: "I do a lot of plyometrics, a lot of stretching, I've incorporated hot yoga, I've incorporated dancing too... Some ballet, some hip hop, Latin, salsa. Basically, anything that gets me to move and sweat."

Agility and flexibility is a huge deal for Lee, whose profession sees him locked inside a cage with another fighter for three or five five-minute rounds.

A search on YouTube for his open workouts before fights will show you some unconventional stretching techniques, as well as plyometric and calisthenic exercises.

UFC usually holds open workouts days before a fight, as part of its promotional push for the event.

Lee competes in the lightweight (under 70kg) division, and has a fight record of 17 wins and three losses. Last October, he fought for the UFC title but, struck down by a staph (bacterial) infection, he lost to compatriot Tony Ferguson.

He is the UFC's fifth-ranked lightweight, and the youngest in its top 10. It may come as a surprise that his normal weight when not fighting or preparing for a fight is 84kg.

Before fights, he embarks on an eight-week weight cut which will see him shed about 700g each week. This means he weighs close to 79kg in the days leading up to a fight. The final "push" is to drop almost 9kg in 16 hours, right before the weigh-in.

"That's all water weight, and it's easy to cut water from your body," said Lee.

He does it by sitting in a hot bath of about 40 deg C for 15-20 minutes each time, for 16 hours. "It's pretty much like you're cooking yourself," he said with a chuckle.

MMA fighters use various techniques, such as wearing plastic or thick clothing while doing intensive exercises, going into a sauna, or even turning to diuretics or laxatives to clear extra waste from inside their bodies.

It helps Lee that his intensive training routine also burns a lot of water and fat from his body.

In camp, he trains for 90 minutes twice a day, six days a week, with one active rest day - when he trains at a lighter load - and one hard sparring day. Outside of it, he trains four to six times, doing anything from grappling practice to ballet.

His in-camp diet is rich in protein; eggs and yogurt in the morning, protein shake after training, and beef, chicken or lamb for dinner.

He is allergic to seafood, which he says most dieticians he has spoken to recommend for a fighter's diet.

"Outside of camp, I'm pretty lenient," he said. "I get most of my carbs in before 2pm, usually cereal in the morning. Then it's all about balancing."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 27, 2018, with the headline 'Hot Bods: Kevin Lee, 25 Professional MMA fighter'. Print Edition | Subscribe