UNCASVILLE, Conn. – When your brother is a UFC star fighting for championships, and you’re a young buck on the rise just getting your feet under you, it’s natural you’ll be the lesser-known sibling.
Bellator bantamweight Keith Lee knows brother Kevin Lee is a UFC lightweight star – star status he hopes to hold on his own one day. Step by step, Keith aims to let his performances inside the cage build his name recognition while accepting any notoriety that comes solely from his surname.
“I think that time is coming soon,” Keith told MMA Junkie on Wednesday. “I don’t mind being ‘Kevin Lee’s brother’ but there’s definitely a style difference between us two. Even the way we talk, the way we move, everything is different – even though that is my brother and I look up to him a lot.”
Over the years, Kevin’s gift of gab has gotten the attention of MMA fans and media alike, as he climbed the UFC rankings to perennial contendership and an interim title shot.
Keith admits it: Kevin has always been the talker in the family – but that doesn’t mean Keith can’t successfully clap back when warranted.
“I leave the trash talking to him,” Keith said. “I’ve always been a doer. I’ve never been a talker. I’ve always been the quiet one. I’ve always been a goofy personality. But when it’s time to go, it’s always time to go.”
As the kids grew up, the Lee household was a lighthearted, trash talk-heavy battleground, Keith explained. With four Lee children in the house, a quick wit was necessary from a young age.
“We had huge sibling rivalries,” Keith said. “There’s actually three of us. I have a younger brother – and an older sister as well, but it was three boys in my house. We went at it like dogs every day to stamp our mark. Now we’re unleashing it on the world. Everybody is starting to see other than our own household.”
Building his own notoriety is important, but the 23-year-old Keith has no problem being Kevin’s shadow of success. Keith doesn’t underestimate his brother’s impact on his career, especially considering how much Kevin has inspired him over the years.
When Keith first walked into an MMA gym, he wasn’t entered into the beginners’ class. He wasn’t rolling with the Average Joes. He was allowed to begin training with the professionals because of who his Kevin was and the respect that came with being related.
“It was a great inspiration to have in front of me,” Keith said. “If it wasn’t for him, all of those doors wouldn’t be open automatically. The doors are open. I just have to come down and bang them down and really just make my stamp. I’m thankful for everything he’s done for me.”
If he follows his plan, keeps his faith, and continues to put in the work, Keith thinks his name and place in MMA will expand. In the end, however, he can only control the controllable. He’d rather the notoriety be earned than given.
“You’ll see I’m my own person,” Keith said. “I don’t have to say that. I don’t have to tell people that. It’s just one of those things that’ll come naturally. I want you to be able to say it, rather than me telling you.”
Keith, is riding a three-fight winning streak into his sophomore promotional appearance Friday at Bellator 245 against Vinicius Zani (11-6 MMA, 0-1 BMMA).
Bellator 245 takes place Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena. The main card simulcasts on Paramount Network and DAZN after prelims on MMA Junkie.