Singapore’s Christian Lee may only be 19 years of age, but he already has a lifetime of martial arts experience under his belt.
He’s already won six FILA world titles, earned his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, and achieved notable successes inside the ONE Championship cage.
Now rated as a bona-fide contender in the ONE featherweight division, Lee recently stopped former ONE Lightweight World Champion Kotetsu “No Face” in dramatic fashion to tie the record for most finishes in ONE history, and raise his ever-growing stock heading into 2018.
His next test sees “The Warrior” take on another Japanese veteran, as he faces former two-weight DEEP champion Kazunori Yokota at ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Friday, 9 March.
“I think Kazunori Yokota is a great match-up,” Lee said during an interview with ONE Championship.
“He is a seasoned veteran. I feel he is actually very similar to Boku.
“He is not as threatening when you look at his record on paper, but he is fast, he is explosive, and I know when we get in there, he is going to be looking to take me out. I am not looking past him in any way, so I am going to go in there and take him out in the same fashion I did Boku.”
That would certainly be some achievement. Lee’s finish of Boku, a spectacular slam KO, was one of the most eye-catching finishes of the year in ONE Championship.
Lee sets himself high standards, which explains why the 19-year-old star chose to accept another tough assignment for his next bout.
“A lot of other athletes would not have even taken this bout,” Lee continues.
“I could have sat and waited, and the title shot could have been mine. But that is just not the type of person I am. I am not going to just sit and wait for something to come. When they offered me Kazunori Yokota, I took it in a heartbeat.”
With each bout comes risk, of course, and Lee knows that by taking on the challenge of facing Yokota, he runs the risk of derailing his title charge.
Having suffered the disappointment of defeat just once before – against current ONE Featherweight and Lightweight World Champion Martin Nguyen in August 2016 – he feels he is well-prepared to take on such a tough test.
“I feel the biggest thing that I took away from that loss, it was a mental thing,” he explained.
“It was my sixth bout in, and I just turned 18 years old. I am only 19 years old now, but I feel years and years ahead, experience-wise, just coming off that loss.
“Just being able to step back and look at things from a different perspective, I really see in that bout I let emotions come into play. There is really no room for emotions in a contest. It is strictly business. Since then, I have been able to implement that into all of my bouts.”
Armed with a more businesslike approach to his bouts, Lee rebounded from his loss to Nguyen with a hat-trick of wins, and he’s looking to extend that winning run in 2018.
People are already linking him with the title, but he says he’s not going to rush into it and get ahead of himself. It’s a “next man up” mentality that he believes will ultimately see him reach his destination.
“A lot of people are impatient about chasing the title,” Lee said.
“With me, my thinking is if you want to be the best in the world, you are going to have to take out everyone anyway.
“So whoever they throw at you, you have to be prepared to face them and beat them.”