Just a few months ago, Singaporean prospect Christian “The Warrior” Lee appeared nearly invincible. Ever since making his professional MMA debut in December 2015, the chiseled 18-year-old had quickly finished every opponent who stood across the cage from him.
Then, last August, everything came crashing down when the energetic featherweight battled ex-title challenger Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen at ONE: HEROES OF THE WORLD. Although Lee seemed to momentarily have the upper hand in the bout’s early stages, he was stunned by a powerful left hook and soon put to sleep via guillotine choke in the first round.
Now, nearly eight months removed from that fateful night, Lee reflects on his first loss, and admits his mental state was not where it needed to be.
“I believe fighting is 95 per cent mental and five percent is physical,” he says. “I absolutely believe I had everything it takes to beat Martin (Nguyen) that night, but the thing is I was just off my game. I was off-focus, and it shows.”
Simply put, the young Lee was becoming burnt out, both physically and mentally. In a mere nine months, Lee was fighting for the sixth time after being in constant fight camps for a year. It was a lot to go through for any professional athlete, much less someone constantly going up against the best in Asian MMA.
“I did not even realize it at the time, but looking back, I see how that affected me on the night of that fight [with Martin],” said Lee.
Following that fight, “The Warrior” took some time to rest his mind, body, and soul — six months, to be exact. During that time away, he continued to watch fights, lift weights, enjoy the Hawaiian sunshine, and teach a young generation of martial artists the basics at United MMA.
The 18-year-old also traveled to Singapore to learn some new moves at Evolve MMA, and to Thailand to help prepare his sister, ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion Angela Lee, for her first title defense at ONE: WARRIOR KINGDOM in March.
As Lee gets deeper into fight camp in anticipation of his return battle with China’s Wan Jian Ping at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY, he acknowledges the mistakes he committed in August, and vows not to break the same way twice.
The young prospect has learnt the value of patience and the pitfalls of being overanxious, and now knows not to be too single-minded in his approach.
“I was so amped up for the fight. It was such a big a moment for me, and I just wanted to take that guy’s head off,” Lee says. “I have so much more to my skills than I showed that night. I was rushing the knockout, and you can never rush the knockout. You can never rush the finish.
“You play your game, and if you play your game correctly, the opportunity for the finish will present itself.”
That, however, is not the only lesson he has learned. Lee is also understanding how to better manage his emotions inside the cage.
“I have been working on controlling my emotions in the heat of the moment,” he says. “I am working on being more professional in the approach of the fight and bringing a controlled aggression, rather than just a blind aggression.”
Still motivated to become the best featherweight on the planet, “The Warrior” is re-energized, and resumes his career on Friday Night, 21 April, in the hopes that the lessons he learnt translate into his future success.