Christian “The Warrior” Lee has all the right people surrounding him to make sure he will become a world champion one day.
Martial arts has always come naturally to Lee. He grew up on the mat alongside his sister, Angela, who is now the reigning ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion. Thanks to their father, Ken, the two prodigies not only learned techniques, but also the discipline, honor, and respect that comes from a life spent in martial arts culture.
That education has continued into adulthood, as Lee splits his time training between his gym homes at United MMA in Hawaii and Evolve MMA in Singapore. Between the two gyms, and the elite training he receives at both facilities, he has become one of the top featherweight competitors in the world.
On Friday, 9 March, he will take a step closer to his world title aspirations when he faces two-division DEEP Champion Kazunori Yokota at ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY. The event takes place at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
In this exclusive interview, Lee discusses the special relationship he shares with his family, his bond with his Evolve MMA teammates, and much more.
ONE: In February, you were promoted to black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu alongside your sister, Angela. What was that experience like?
Christian Lee: It was definitely a great honor. It is something my sister and I have been working towards our whole lives. Jiu-jitsu is really just one aspect of martial arts that we work on, but it is something that we specialize in. It is great to be rewarded for the hard work that we put into our jiu-jitsu training.
ONE: You and Angela have trained together since childhood, but lately, she has been in Singapore more than Hawaii. Is it strange not training with her as much?
CL: My sister and I, we have been training partners for our entire lives, and we are still very close. It is just a necessary part of life. She is in Singapore, and she’s got to do what she’s got to do there. I know that we will always stay close, we will always stay in touch, and whenever we are together, we will always train.
In fact, right now, she is down here in Hawaii doing some training to prepare for her next world title defense. We have been training together every day, and she helps me teach the classes, and then we help train each other, as well as my dad training us.”
ONE: What is your relationship like with Angela’s fiancé, Bruno Pucci?
CL: Bruno is a great guy and training partner. As far as I can see, he is a great guy, and he treats Angela well. She is happy, so I am happy.
We train great together. We are great training partners. I actually flew up to his last bout to help train him during the week, and I cornered him. We have a good relationship.
ONE: Who are some of your main training partners at Evolve MMA?
CL: Sagetdao Petpayathai andAmir [Khan], we always get together and train whenever I go back there. I come home to work some more training, and then back to Evolve to share it with them, and they share [their knowledge] with me. It is definitely a great thing.
ONE: Some of your training partners, like Bruno and Sagetdao, are in your weight division. Is there a concern that you may have to face each other one day?
CL: The thing that is kind of funny with a team is, you all have trained together, you all know the order in there, and it is not really something we talk about.
Of course, if ONE Championship came and offered me a bout against one of my teammates, I would say find me the next best match-up, because I am really not a big fan of facing my teammates. I have never done it in my career, and I do not really plan on it.
If the world title is on the line, as long as my teammate is in contention, of course, because it is for a world title. But other than that, I do not really feel that any of us are set to meet in the near future. It is not something that I really put too much thought into.
ONE: Your father, Ken, has been the biggest influence on your career. Is that a big part as to why you like being in Hawaii and working alongside him every day?
CL: My dad is the leading force in what keeps me on the right path. Of course, I have to give praise to my entire family, and I have really great people around me. But at the end of the day, it comes down to yourself, and I know what I want.
I know that I am 100 percent focused on being the best martial artist I can be, and I want to be the best in the world. That is the only thing guiding me. That is the main thing driving me. I could not have done any of this without my dad being behind me.
I say it all the time: he is my dad, he is my coach, he is my manager, and he is one of my best friends. It is a great relationship. It is the kind of relationship I would want to have with my future son. I am a very proud son to have him as my father.
ONE: You are only 19, but are already one of the best featherweights in the world, and truly a star on the global scale. Is that surreal to you?
CL: It definitely takes some getting used to over time. Honestly for me, I am just so grateful to have fans out there that are so passionate about the sport, and that are very friendly and very respectful.
They come up to me and say, “Hey sir, can I please have a picture with you?” The fans are ultimately what propels you to the next level. If no one wants to watch you, then you are not going to get paid to compete.
So I am really grateful to all of my fans out there. I will stand there as long as it takes and get everyone their pictures because, for me, it is a great privilege that someone out there wants to take a picture with me. It is a surreal experience every time, but it never gets any less exciting.