Popular women’s flyweight star Andrea Lee joining UFC roster

The UFC announced back in May it would be introducing a 125-pound women’s flyweight division and the promotion has begun to ensure the weight class is flush with talent.

Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) champion Andrea Lee, fresh off a title defence over Jamie Thorton this past weekend, signed with the UFC and was expected to make her debut against Kalindra Faria at UFC 216 in Las Vegas on Oct. 7.

Lee confirmed the bout on her Twitter account Thursday following an initial report from MMAFighting.com’s Ariel Helwani, however, on Friday, a subsequent article from the website reported that Lee won’t be making her debut at UFC 216 after all. Since the 28-year-old has previously failed a drug test–she tested positive for a banned diuretic in March 2016–she will not be able to compete for the promotion in 2017. Instead, she will have to enter the UFC’s United State’s Anti-Doping Agency testing pool for six months.

Section 5.7.4 of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy states:

“A new or returning Athlete who admits or has an established and verifiable history of the Use, Attempted Use or Possession of a substance or method that is classified as prohibited at all times on the Prohibited List shall not be permitted to compete in UFC Bouts until he/she has made him/herself available for Testing for a minimum period of six months before competing. At USADA’s discretion, such Athletes may also be required to provide a minimum of two negative Samples during the minimum six-month notice period before being cleared for competition. This provision shall not apply in situations in which (i) the Athlete’s Use of the Prohibited Substance or Method was pursuant to a valid TUE or (ii) USADA subsequently grants the Athlete a TUE for the substance or method in question.”

Faria (18-5-1) has won three straight, most recently competing in the Titan FC organization, and the UFC is hoping to keep her on the card. Canadian Sarah Kaufman, a three-fight UFC veteran and former Stirkeforce champion, has offered her services to step in on short notice.

Lee (8-2) is a Golden Gloves champion and has won several amateur Muay Thai titles yet she has become known for her grappling as three of her eight career wins in MMA have come by submission. Lee is widely considered a top-10 fighter at 125 pounds and is having herself quite the 2017. She is 4-0 this year and won the inaugural LFA women’s flyweight title.

Not only will the women’s flyweight division continue to attract talent like Lee and Faria, but established fighters currently competing in the UFC’s bantamweight and strawweight divisions will find a home at 125 pounds.

For example, former bantamweight title challengers Liz Carmouche and Canadian Alexis Davis have decided to drop to flyweight. The pair will meet at a UFC Fight Night event Dec. 9 in Fresno, Calif., the UFC announced Thursday.

The current season of the UFC’s longstanding reality show The Ultimate Fighter features women’s flyweight competitors and the winner of the 16-woman tournament will be crowned the inaugural UFC champion.