LAS VEGAS (BVM) – Keith Lee, known as TikTok’s most viral food critic, is known to the MMA world under his professional fighting name, Keith ‘Killa’ Lee. His journey from pro fighter to TikTok food reviewer is unlike any story heard ever before.
National headlines surrounding Lee’s influence as a TikTok food reviewer read, “Las Vegas restaurant goes from having almost no customers, to sold out after review from famous TikToker (Keith Lee).” Lee even signed a partnership deal with the nation’s largest fast casual food chain, Chipotle, after he made a steak quesadilla hack go massively viral. The “Keithadilla” will be available in stores starting in March.
Lee has been a pro fighter since September 2017 and still plans to hit the octagon in 2023 despite his new-found fame.
At one point, Lee was cut from one of the biggest MMA promotions in the world which left him poor and uncertain of the future. So, he turned to TikTok to change his life around for his wife and child.
“A day after Christmas (2019), I got a call from my manager and I earned a six-figure contract (with Bellator MMA),” Lee shared on TikTok. “… In August of 2021, (after going 2-2), I lost my six-figure contract and I was broke again.”
By January 2022, Lee still had no job offers and had just $1,000 in his bank account. But, he continued to post on the TikTok account that he created back in March 2020.
“I originally started doing TikTok to get more comfortable with doing interviews for MMA,” Lee told MMA Fighting… “It used to take me an hour and a half to shoot a two-minute video when I first started because I would get so nervous.”
Lee has always shared on TikTok that he has “very bad social anxiety.” Regardless, he has managed to grow his TikTok following from 1.7 million in November 2022 to 9.6 million less than three months later in January 2023.
His strategy on TikTok is simple. He sits down on a kid’s Paw Patrol chair and reviews different foods on a scale of 1-10 (including decimals). Anything above 9.1 sends flocks of people from around the country to try the food out – such as what his review shown below with 40 million views did.
Frankensons Pizzeria Taste test 💕 would you try it ? 💕 #foodcritic
Everyone just trusts Lee who really has no professional food background – he’s just a professional fighter. He’s actually making a bigger living as a food critic than as a pro fighter.
“I’m in a different (tax) bracket than I ever was with fighting,” Lee told MMA Fighting. “To say the least, I can make a living off of it.”
The 26-year-old still has plans to be in the octagon since fighting has always been the dream. Lee kicked off his professional fighting career in early 2015 after graduating as the wrestling captain at Southfield High School (Michigan).
Currently, Lee’s pro fighting career is managed by SuckerPunch Entertainment and he’s listed under Bantamweight.
“We have a lot of athletes in our company, a lot of them have millions of followers but I’ve never seen an influence that quick and impactful in such a short period of time by anybody,” Founder/CEO of SuckerPunch Entertainment, Brian Butler-Au, shared in a video podcast.
So what’s next for Lee’s fighting career? It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Professional Fighters League came knocking on his door considering his huge fanbase. After all, the PFL recently signed social media star Jake Paul.
Lee’s next fight is to be determined. As for now, he’s busy saving small businesses from closing down and he has a major check to cash in when the steak quesadilla, synonymous with his name thanks to TikTok, hits Chipotle menus.
Notably, Keith Lee’s brother is Kevin Lee – a former UFC fighter who is currently an MMA fighter with Eagle FC.