The year 2019 was absolutely golden for Christian “The Warrior” Lee, who captured the ONE Lightweight World Title and the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix Championship.
As he looks to keep building his legacy, “The Warrior” does not anticipate a long night inside the Circle.
“We’re going to meet in the center of the cage, and my experience is going to come into play,” Lee states. “I’m going to get a first-round TKO finish.”
The Hawaii-based Singaporean has reason to be confident in his striking after finishing eight of his professional bouts by knockout, including three of his previous four.
Meanwhile, his two most recent fights showcased his development into the best lightweight in the world.
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While this is technically his first ONE Lightweight World Title defense, “The Warrior” believes his win over Arslanaliev made a similar statement.
“Many people say that you’re not a true World Champion until you defend the belt, and in many ways, that is true. But once you win the belt, you win the belt,” Lee explains.
“Although this is my first title defense, taking on ‘Dagi’ in the Grand Prix Final was really my first title defense, as he was the top lightweight contender.”
In any case, the next step in Lee’s journey will see him attempt to stop a fast-moving train.
Lapcius’ status as the #1 lightweight contender in ONE’s Athlete Rankings is well-deserved. At 14-0, the dominant Moldovan has finished every one of his opponents, including the athletes he faced in his ONE Championship run.
The Moldovan enjoyed a successful promotional debut, as he dominated Thai mixed martial arts pioneer Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai en route to a third-round TKO in May 2019.
Then, he stamped his ticket to a title shot with a jaw-dropping 67-second rear-naked choke victory over former ONE Featherweight World Champion Marat “Cobra” Gafurov at ONE: WARRIOR’S CODE in February. It was not just a statement, but an announcement that he would be a major player in the division and one of Europe’s next big stars.
But even before that big win over Gafurov, Lee had zeroed in on the Team Petrosyan representative.
“I was already training with him as the opponent in mind,” the reigning World Champion says.
“With Iuri Lapicus, I was really excited to hear that he was going to be my first fight back. He’s done well in his career to earn that #1-contender spot. I give all the credit to him, and I think he’s definitely a worthy opponent.
“This is his first title shot and a big opportunity. When he steps into the Circle with me, he’s going to come out guns blazing, trying to take my head off. I do feel like that if it does go into the later rounds, I will have the edge over him.
“But just the way our styles match up, I feel like it’s going to be an early clash, and we’re going to see who’s got the better of each other.”
Despite the extended break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Singaporean believes fans will see the best version of himself in the Circle.
“With the long layoff during this time, it’s actually been really great for me,” Lee says. “I’ve still been in the gym, training every single day, but I was able to let my body rest, let my mind rest, and spend a lot of quality time with my wife and family.”
Beyond his own matchup, “The Warrior” is simply excited to be part of a mega event that features four World Championship bouts. And he doesn’t plan to shrink despite being under the microscope.
“It’s going to be huge. It’s definitely going to be the most-watched ONE Championship event of the year so far. I’m very excited and honored to be a part of such a big event. I’m so grateful to be back in action,” Lee says.
“I embrace the pressure. Pressure is part of what makes this sport so interesting, and it’s part of being a World Champion. It’s going to be nothing new for me. I’m just excited to make a statement in my first title defense. There’s going to be pressure, but it’s going to be good pressure.”
And if pressure makes diamonds, the 22-year-old expects his World Title defense to shine the brightest in Singapore.
“My fight is going to be the most exciting because I’m going to bring the fight from start to finish. I have no reservations when I step into that Circle,” he continues.
“I’m not thinking about the belt or pleasing any fans or anybody else. I’m just worried about stepping in there and taking out the man in front of me as quickly as possible.”
For now, that man is Lapicus. But there are other contenders waiting in the wings – contenders that Lee plans to knock off one by one.
“I feel like winning the belt just marked the start of my journey,” the reigning king says. “From there, I plan on taking out every contender in the division until there’s no one left.”