Christian “The Warrior” Lee is one of the brightest young stars in ONE Championship’s featherweight division, and believes he is only a few wins away from entering the world title picture.
On Saturday, 9 December, Lee (7-1) has a chance to take the next step in his martial arts evolution and career. The 19-year-old Singapore representative will square off against former ONE Lightweight World Champion Kotetsu “No Face” Boku (26-11-2) in a three-round featherweight affair at ONE: WARRIORS OF THE WORLD, which broadcasts live from the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand.
Japan’s Boku is a battle-tested veteran, ONE’s second lightweight world titleholder, and has won half of his 26 victories through strikes. In fact, his past eight wins have all come by way of knockout. At age 40, the Krazy Bee product continues to be a force inside of the cage, as he recently dropped down a weight class and defeated a pair of top athletes.
It’s a classic battle between seasoned veteran and young up-and-comer, and while Lee respects his opponent, he plans to make an example out of “No Face.”
“Boku is not a man to be taken lightly. He is a former world champion in the lightweight division, he dropped down to featherweight, and since then he has been on a tear,” Lee acknowledges.
“He has knocked out four of his last five opponents. In his last two matches, he finished Timofey [Nastyukhin] and Eric Kelly, and those were two top contenders in the division, so to think that his age is slowing him down would be a big mistake.
“He is older, he is aging, and he is slowing down, but he still has his power, his timing, and still is a dangerous martial artist. So I am going to be carful with my game plan, and just show him, and the rest of the world, that I am the future of this division.”
Following a first-round submission loss to reigning two-division World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen, which gave “The Warrior” his sole blemish, he took eight months off to refresh his body and recenter his mind.
Thus far, the exercise in patience has taken his game to another plane. He defeated “The Werewolf” Wan Jian Ping this past April, and followed that up with a thrilling third-round submission of Malaysia’s Keanu Subba.
The victory over Subba was particularly impressive, as it was a back-and-forth encounter that truly tested Lee’s heart. Also, it was the only contest of his career to go past the opening stanza.
“It was a great opportunity sharing the cage with him (Subba), because he is a fellow rising star in the division,” Lee says. “I definitely felt like we were at a crossroads, where one person was going to jump to the front of title contention, and the other person was going to take the back road, so it was a very important match for me. I laid it all out on the line.
“The biggest thing I learned coming out of my match with Subba was just to remain composed, and to not let emotions come into play. That is something every young martial artist needs to learn as they transition into the upper level of the division.”
After the victory, Lee took some time off before accepted the proposed tilt with Boku in late September. Ever since then, he has been back in the gym.
“The Warrior” and his older sister, ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion Angela Lee, planned out their training camps together so he could prepare at Evolve MMA, all while supporting his sister for her scheduled showdown against Mei Yamaguchi at ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT on 24 November. From there, they would leave for Bangkok, where the featherweight would face Boku at ONE: WARRIORS OF THE WORLD.
That plan changed when Angela was injured in a car accident in Hawaii. She still made the trip to Singapore, but was forced to withdraw from her scheduled contest. Understandably, it has been quite an emotional time for the Lee family. The family has spent their entire lives as a cohesive unit, and they, along with fans all around the world, are thankful that Angela was relatively unhurt.
“Angela is doing much better,” the Singaporean featherweight says. “It was a very traumatic incident and we were all shaken up, but we are just so grateful she is here with us today, and that she is healthy and recovering.”
With his sister healing and right by his side, Lee can focus entirely on Boku.
This is an important tilt for the “The Warrior,” as this upcoming contest could be the starting point for a ONE Featherweight World Championship opportunity against Nguyen.
“I feel my road to the title depends 100 per cent on this upcoming match with Boku. Nothing happens till I get past him, and not just getting past him, but the fashion I do so,” Lee explains.
“If I go out there and it is a three round war that goes to a decision, I might need to prove myself more. But if i go out there and do what I do best, which is take him out in devastating fashion, then who is next? There is Marat [Gafurov], Boku, [Narantungalag] Jadambaa, and me. Between those key players, I feel this is the determining match to see who is next in line for the featherweight world title shot.”
If an opportunity at Nguyen’s ONE Featherweight World Championship were not to happen, that is fine. Lee will continue training with the mindset of finishing opponents until he gets his crack at the gold.
Plus, everything in his life is going as good as they could be. His family is healthy, he is competing on the global stage and is feeling nothing but positive energy.
“I am in a very good place in my life. I am very blessed and extremely grateful to be living out my dream,” he says. “I have a great family, a great girlfriend, and great gyms to train out of in Singapore and Hawaii. I feel like everything is coming together.”