Kevin Lee announced himself as a legitimate threat to the Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight throne with a dominant fifth-round stoppage of perennial contender Edson Barboza on April 21, but the seeds for a significantly more consequential campaign were planted that same weekend. Going into the final fight on her UFC contract, bantamweight Leslie Smith abruptly parted ways with the promotion, this after opponent Aspen Ladd failed to make weight for their scheduled match. The UFC offered Smith her full purse — it consisted of show and win money totalling $62,000 — but declined to negotiation a contract extension.
Ranked in the top 10 in a notoriously thin division, Smith is riding a three-fight winning streak at 135 pounds — her only loss since 2014 came in a catchweight pairing with current featherweight champion Cristiane Justino. The UFC’s treatment of Smith has been interpreted as a reprisal for her labor-organizing efforts and a warning to would-be agitators to keep their heads down.
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