Christian Lee has his sights set on history at ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS in Singapore on Friday, 18 May.
At just 19 years of age, Lee could become the youngest male world champion in mixed martial arts history, if he dethrones Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen in their ONE Featherweight World Title bout.
Ahead of the biggest match of his career, he sat down with ONE Championship to share his thoughts before stepping into the cage this coming weekend.
It would be easy to think that Lee had added motivation heading into the contest. After all, Nguyen is the only man to defeat him in professional martial arts competition. But the teenage star says revenge isn’t his main motivation.
“For me, it is the world title, without a doubt,” he said.
“It is going to be really sweet redeeming my one loss to Martin, but it is going to be even sweeter to win that world title. So if I had to choose one that means more to me, the belt is definitely more important.”
As you’d expect for such an important bout, Lee has been doing extensive research on his opponent’s matches. In particular, his most recent outing, where Nguyen was narrowly beaten by split decision by ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano Fernandes.
“I thought it was a good fight,” said Lee.
“Bibiano played a smart, safe game. But I am not Bibiano. I am a much different fighter. I am much more dynamic. He figured out how to defend some of Martin’s overhands.
“But I am not going to just defend Martin’s overhands. I am going to figure out how to finish him. That is what is going to happen on 18 May.”
The bout is doubly exciting for Lee and his family, as he’s being joined on the card by his world champion sister Angela, who will put her ONE Women’s Atomweight World Title on the line in the night’s main event.
“It is very exciting,” he admitted.
“We have done it (competed on the same card) twice before – once in Manila and once in Singapore, and this will be the third time. However, the stakes will be much higher. We will both be fighting for world titles.
“I give major props to my dad because he will not only be there emotionally supporting us as a father, but as a coach.
“I feel like the most stress will lay on him on fight night. Me and Angela are training our butts off together right now, and I know it is going to be a good night.”
The pair work regularly in training camp, and the pair have been a major part of each other’s martial arts career. It’s been no different heading into ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS this weekend.
“Absolutely. We are constantly cageside during [each other’s] sparring matches, and we are constantly giving each other advice, ‘Keep your hands up here,’ or, ‘Sprawl this way.’
“It just helps to have each other there. We know each other’s games so well, so it is really nice.”
Despite seeing his sister ascend to the sort of stardom few could dream of, Lee says there’s no sibling rivalry between the pair. He’s just happy to see his sister doing well.
“There has never been any sort of envy,” he explained.
“I am nothing but happy for her. I want Angela to be the biggest star she can possibly be. I know my time will come.
“I do not really care too much about the spotlight or the fame. I just love to compete. I am just going in there loving what I do. I could not be any happier for Angela.”
He also said while he is directly affected whenever he watches his sister compete, he is fortunate not to suffer too many nerves inside the cage.
“When she competes, I am so nervous. I am just a mess,” he said.
“When it comes down to my fights, I do not feel too many nerves. I know what I need to do, and I just go in there and do it. But there is definitely a lot more nerves when Angela competes.”
With his sister on the card this weekend and a world title on the line, the stakes couldn’t be much higher as he makes his final preparations for the biggest bout of his career. But despite the level of pressure, Lee said he’s ready for the challenge ahead, as he looks to achieve a record-breaking world title at the age of 19.
“There are moments where I definitely feel the pressure,” he admitted.
“I am only 19 years old. But at the end of the day, I am confident in my abilities, and I am confident in my training. I know this is my time. I know this is my time to win the title, and nothing is going to stop me.
“I have big plans for my fighting career. First things first: I plan on winning the title, and then I plan on defending the title.
“I know there are a lot of hungry contenders in the featherweight division, and I know what it is like to get stuck waiting for a title shot, so I am not going to deny them of their opportunity to fight for the title. I am going to defend it as many times as I can before I decide to move on to the next division.”