Christian Lee: I am The Best Lightweight In The World
Ahead of his third title defence, ONE lightweight champion Christian Lee feels confident that nobody in the division has the tools to beat him.
After winning the belt from Shinya Aoki at ONE: Enter the Dragon in 2019, Lee has successfully defended against Saygid ‘Dagi’ Arslanaliev and Iuri Lapicus. The 22 year old is now set to put his title on the line against Timofey Nastyukhin at ONE on TNT 2 on April 14th.
Speaking to ONE Championship, Lee said that his next opponent excites him as Nastyukhin has knockout wins over former champion Eduard Folayang, and former UFC and Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez.
“The thing about this fight that’s exciting for me is that Timofey is, in my opinion, one of the most dangerous athletes in the lightweight division,” Lee said. “And he’s taken out some of the best names in ONE so far. He’s got a knockout win over Eduard Folayang, a knockout win over Eddie Alvarez, and he just took out the number three contender, Pieter Buist.
“So I really feel like he’s in the number one contender spot. He’s definitely deserving of this world title shot. And just the way our styles line up, he’s a finisher, I’m a finisher, and it’s going to make for a great, exciting fight for the fans.”
A Dangerous Opponent
Half of Nastyukhin’s 14 wins have come by the way of KO/TKO, and Lee believes come fight night, the Russian is going to come hard at him, but the United MMA representative is going to be prepared for whatever comes his way.
“Timofey is a dangerous opponent because he’s always looking for the finish,” Lee noted. “He does have a very good amount of power in his hands. But I feel like what sets him apart is just the fact that he’s able to make adjustments in his game, and he’s always able to find a way to finish.
“I’ve seen him up against good fighters. As I mentioned before, Eduard Folayang and Eddie Alvarez — they’re good strikers themselves. He was able to find holes in their game, take them apart, and eventually get the knockout. So in this matchup, I feel like it’s going to be no different with his game plan. I think he’s going to be coming in there looking to take my head off. I think he’ll have a good game plan to try to expose my game, but I’m going to be equally as prepared for his.”
Gameplan For Nastyukhin
Despite being a knockout artist, Nastyukhin has a four submission wins to his name, and is well-rounded in all areas. However, Lee feels that he is better in all areas, especially on the mat, and can finish the fight anywhere it goes on the night.
“The thing is, every fight starts on the feet,” Lee said. “And so right away, we’ll be going into his strength. And really, that’s where I feel he’s the strongest. He’s a well-rounded fighter himself, and I think he has a few submission wins on his record as well. So I do think he’ll be training in every area for the fight. But I definitely see the ground game as his biggest weakness.
“I’m going to stand in there, and I’m going to pick him apart on the feet, and eventually, I’m just going to break him down with my pressure. I don’t think that he’ll be able to withstand the pace that I’m going to bring to him. I’m not afraid of his power. I’m not afraid of his striking game. I respect the skills that he has on the feet, but ultimately, I’ll take this fight wherever it brings me, and I’ll be looking for the finish on the feet or on the ground.”
Lee is confident that he gets the job done inside two rounds, as he believes his pace will prove to be too much for the 31 year old.
“I see this fight going down within two rounds,” Lee said. “You know, he’s a tough guy, and I’ll be looking to take him out in the first, but I don’t see him getting out of the second. I’m going to put a very, very fast pace on him from the moment the bell rings, and from there, I just don’t think he’ll be able to hang with me. I think I’m going to drown him with my pressure.”
Best In The World
At only 22 years old, Lee has faced some of the best fighters ONE Championship has to offer. Currently on a five fight win streak, Lee feels confident that he is the best lightweight in the world right now.
“I don’t want to come off as cocky, but I do feel that I’m the best lightweight fighter in the entire world,” Lee stated. “And that doesn’t mean just ONE Championship – that means every organisation. I’m absolutely confident that I would come out on top against any champion, in any division, that they put me against. I feel that I’m the best in the world, and I’m more than happy to step in there and show it.”
Alvarez vs Lapicus
Ever since Alvarez signed with ONE, a fight between him and top prospect Lee has been on the cards. While Nastyukhin ruined ‘The Underground King’s’ debut at ONE: A New Era in 2019, he bounced back to beat Folayang at ONE: Dawn of Heroes five months later.
The former two promotion champion is now set to face Lapicus at ONE on TNT 1. Should he win in an impressive fashion, ‘The Warrior’ believes Alvarez is going to be the next in line to fight for a title shot.
“Yeah, absolutely. You know, ONE Championship signed Eddie Alvarez to see if he can make his way up to the top and claim the belt – and that belt is mine, and it’s not going anywhere,” Lee promised. “But I definitely plan on facing Eddie Alvarez somewhere down the line. Iuri was the number one contender [before losing to Lee in October], and he was the last guy to fight for the belt, so I feel that if Eddie can finish Lapicus, or get an impressive win over him, he’s definitely going to be next in line for the belt once I get past Timofey.
“I’m not looking past my opponent in front of me, but I’ll be keeping an eye on that matchup. I see Eddie as the only guy left in the lightweight division that I haven’t taken out. Timofey is right here in front of me. I’m not looking past him, but other than Timofey, it’s just Eddie. Those two guys are the only two left standing in my way until I’ve cleared out the lightweight division. And from there, we’ll see. I’m going to keep my options open.”
ONE TNT Deal
ONE announced its deal with American cable network TNT in 2019, with plans of making a big splash in the United States in 2020, however, their live debut on the network has been delayed due to COVID. Now that the promotion is ready to enter the American market this year, Lee feels very excited to be a major part of it.
“I think it’s great. I’m really excited that ONE has signed a deal with TNT,” Lee said. “It’s great to see that ONE is finally breaking its way into the US market, and I can tell my friends and family here in Hawaii to just turn on TNT and watch it in prime time. I’m excited for that and just excited for all the big things coming. I know they’re talking of bringing a show here to the United States and possibly starting with Hawaii. I would be all for that. And I’m just really happy to see the growth of ONE Championship, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Headlining ONE on TNT 2
Lee’s fight with Nastyukhin will serve as the main event at UFC on TNT 2, and he feels honoured that ONE has put its trust in him to headline a high-profile event.
“I’m very honoured that ONE Championship feels that I’m a big enough draw to put me as their main event,” Lee expressed. “The way that I fight, I like to bring the action from start to finish, and I’m always looking for the finish. I’m very, very grateful that ONE Championship thinks of me as an exciting fighter who can draw fans.
“I’m just extremely grateful to be headlining such a big event on TNT. It’s a great honour for me to be in the position of lightweight world champion, where they’re calling me up asking me to headline their events. I still remember when I was first starting in ONE Championship, I was the first bout of the night on the prelim card. Now I’m stepping up on TNT, headlining big shows. It’s just great. And I’m so grateful that ONE Championship has that faith in me.”
Do you think Christian Lee can successfully defend his lightweight title against Timofey Nastyukhin in the ONE on TNT 2 main event?