Christian “The Warrior” Lee may have just won the ONE Lightweight World Title, but he wants to achieve much more in the rest of this year.
The Singaporean superstar shocked the world at ONE: ENTER THE DRAGON when he dethroned Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki with a stunning knockout to win the belt and become the youngest male World Champion in mixed martial arts history.
The odds were stacked against Lee – who moved up a weight class to face the Japanese legend – and he was in serious danger early on when he was locked in an armbar.
Somehow, the 20-year old martial arts prodigy battled his way free, and then stormed back with a stunning flurry of punches to end the encounter less than a minute into the second round.
Now “The Warrior” has the belt wrapped around his waist, he does not want to sit around and smell the roses. As he explains, he wants to get back in the ONE Championship Circle as soon as possible to take on the toughest challenges in The Home Of Martial Arts.
ONE: Can you describe your emotions when you became a World Champion?
Christian Lee: It was a surreal experience. The belt has been a dream of mine for a very long time. The moment they put that strap on my shoulder was just amazing.
I can see that entire moment perfectly clear – I can hear the announcer, I can see the lights. I will definitely never forget that experience.
ONE: What was the game plan going into the contest, and how did it play out?
CL: The strategy was to finish Shinya in the first round and not to get taken down. However, in a bout, there are many variables, and one of them was Shinya’s experience in the ring.
I went to the body lock, and he was able to secure the takedown. I was stuck under him for the first round, but through my training and experience, I was able to survive, and then get the finish in the second round.
ONE: How deep did Shinya Aoki have that armbar locked in? Were you ever close to tapping?
CL: I’ve got to be honest – that arm-bar was tight, very tight. However, there was not a single thought in my mind of tapping. I will never tap in a fight.
Whether it’s a choke, an arm lock, or an arm-bar, I will never tap in a fight. That’s really not me being cocky or arrogant – that is simply how much each bout means to me. I go into each match ready to go out on my shield, and ready to take my opponent out.
ONE: Did you think about how rare it is for anybody to survive a Shinya Aoki submission?
CL: Shinya is an amazing martial artist. He’s an excellent Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner. However, I’m very confident in my grappling skills as well.
There was not a single doubt in my mind whatsoever that I wouldn’t escape that armbar. I knew that I would.
ONE: What did your corner tell you to change things around for the second round?
CL: It’s funny. My dad stayed very calm the whole time, he gave me some water, and he said, ‘We got that out of the way, now let’s go back to what you’re supposed to do.’ I went out there, and I did it.
ONE: Can you walk us through how you got the finish?
CL: I kind of felt like after the first round, all of the cobwebs were out. I kind of used that as a warm-up round.
Going into the second, I really just went and I put out the game plan I was supposed to do in the first round. I stuffed his shot, I looked for the chin, and I got the finish.
I knew it was over. Some people are saying it was an early stoppage, but I have 100-percent belief in myself as a martial artist, and when I smell blood, I go for the finish. As soon as I felt an impact on his chin, I knew that it was over.
I stalked him down to the ground, I got the drop, and I went for the finish. That’s when Olivier Coste stepped in.
Shinya is a teammate and a friend, and even though we were stepping in there as competitors, I still wouldn’t want any serious damage done to him, so I’m glad the stoppage came.
ONE: What did Aoki say to you after the match?
CL: Shinya was so gracious in defeat. He just said to me, ‘You are the next big thing, you are the next generation of Asian martial arts, and I’m happy to pass you my belt and my career.’
ONE: What does that mean to be one half of the first brother-sister duo to be mixed martial arts World Champions?
CL: It’s amazing, really. It’s something that’s hard to put words to. It’s something that Angela and I have dreamed about since we were young kids.
For it to become a reality at just 20 and 22 years of age – I’m blown away. I’m just so happy to have such an amazing sister who is a World Champion as well.
ONE: How comfortable did you feel competing at lightweight?
CL: I’ve been a featherweight my whole career, but recently I’ve been putting on more and more weight after each fight, and I feel great at lightweight.
I was not worried one bit that my first fight at lightweight was for the belt. I knew that I would carry the weight well. I’ve trained with bigger, stronger guys my whole life, so I was confident that I would translate over well.
ONE: Now that you’re ONE Lightweight World Champion, what do you expect the rest of your schedule to look like in 2019?
CL: I plan on staying as active as possible. I know there’s a World Grand Prix going on for the next shot at the belt. However, if ONE Championship offers me a fight, I will take it instantly.
Whether that means going back down to challenge for the belt at featherweight, or they find a top contender to challenge for my belt at lightweight, or whatever. It doesn’t matter. I want to stay active. I’m hungry and ready to fight whoever ONE Championship throws at me next.
I am still the top contender in the featherweight division. There’s no one else but me, and if I choose to and if everything lines up, I would absolutely be ready for a fight for that featherweight belt.
ONE: Three men are left in the World Grand Prix – Saygid “Dagi” Guseyn Arslanaliev, Lowen Tynanes, and Timofey Nastyukhin. Who do you think will win the tournament and get the shot at your belt?
CL: The last three competitors in that Grand Prix are all studs. They are all very strong martial artists. I feel like all three of them have an equal chance of winning that World Grand Prix, and I look forward to facing the winner.
They are all finishers, and that’s what I love about it. It’s exciting for me because every one of those players goes for the kill. When I’m in there standing across from another person, I’m looking to finish them as quickly as possible, and I’m just excited that they’re going to be looking for the same.
I’m hungry. I’m hungrier than ever. I’m looking to take out every single contender in the lightweight and featherweight divisions. I’m looking to become the most dominant World Champion in ONE Championship history.