Christian “The Warrior” Lee made his dreams come true this past year, and his appetite for success is only getting stronger.
He accepted a short-notice bout against Saygid “Dagi” Guseyn Arslanaliev and defeated him in the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix Championship Final via unanimous decision to claim the tournament’s silver belt in October.
Now, with a career-defining year in the books, the Singaporean is eagerly looking towards 2020 and promises to get his reign as the lightweight king off to a blistering start.
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“I feel like it’s everything to keep pushing, to keep treating myself as the hungry contender that I was before I won the belt,” the 21-year-old says.
“Many times, people win the belt and become champion, but then they will sit back for a bit. They will stop training, they will stop pushing themselves to their limit, and they will just think that they have done enough.
“For me, I’m still that same hungry contender I was before I won the belt.”
ONE Championship’s lightweight division may be the deepest weight class in the entire organization, so “The Warrior” understands he will be walking through a minefield of top contenders all gunning for his belt.
Lee previously mentioned “The Underground King” Eddie Alvarez as a potential opponent because defeating a legend like him would go a long way towards cementing the Singaporean’s own status in the sport.
“When Eddie signed to ONE Championship, I was still in the featherweight division. I said I would love for that fight to happen, and I would still love for that fight to happen,” he explains.
“I think it would be a huge draw in the United States. I’m hoping Eddie does well in 2020 and that he is able to work his way up to the top because the lightweight division is so stacked.
“For me, I know it would be a big fight. I’m hoping he can make his way up [to the top] so I can defend my title against him next year.”
Another mixed martial artist Lee has kept his eye on is Timofey Nastyukhin.
The Russian mauler elevated his profile by knocking out Alvarez in the first round of the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix quarterfinals, and he was seen as a potential favorite to win the tournament until an injury forced him to withdraw.
Now that he has seemingly recovered from that setback, Nastyukhin is expected to climb back towards World Title contention. That is a development “The Warrior” would welcome with open arms.
“I love his fighting style. I’ve been watching Timofey ever since he started in ONE Championship,” he says.
“I think that would be a very exciting fight for the fans. I feel like he is a guy who gets written off because he has faced so many injuries in his career, but he is definitely a very dangerous opponent. I think after a few more fights, we could see him getting a title shot as well.”
While there are many other contenders Lee would be excited to defend his ONE Lightweight World Title against in the coming year, he still wants to get some redemption in his old weight class.
The Singaporean has the desire to face his longtime rival, ONE Featherweight World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen, for the third time and add another piece of gold to his growing trophy case.
“Although I am the king of the lightweight division, I feel like I have some unfinished business in the featherweight division still,” he says.
“We could very well see another match-up [with Martin] for a second belt in early 2020 because I’m not going to leave that division without claiming the belt first.”
Even though the ONE Lightweight World Champion has lofty goals for the future, he plans to keep his head down and grind in the training room.
Despite the titles he has already claimed, “The Warrior” knows there is still plenty of room for improvement.
“The way that I made it to the top was by staying humble, both me and my sister, Angela [Lee],” he explains.
“We never let fame get to our heads. We get in the gym every single day and we work our butts off. That’s our secret to success, and nothing is going to change in 2020.”