With the ONE Lightweight World Championship on the line, the hard-hitting stars are not short on motivation for their headlining contest on Wednesday, 14 April, and the eyes of a prime-time North American audience will only add more spice.
In their final media interviews before clashing inside of the Circle, both athletes expressed complete confidence in their ability to walk away with the belt.
Reigning king Lee — who most recently defended his crown with a first-round TKO over Iuri Lapicus in October — was steadfast in his belief that he left no stone unturned while preparing for a formidable challenger.
“Timofey is a serious threat and he’s absolutely one of the most dangerous fighters in my division. I will not be taking him lightly. However, I’ve trained extremely hard for this contest,” the Singaporean-American said.
“I’m coming in here prepared with a specific game plan to counter his strengths. I know he’s going to be coming in very prepared and he’ll have a game plan of his own, but I feel that my preparation has been stronger for this one.
“I believe in myself, I believe in my training, and I know that no one is going to get past me in this fight.”
Russia’s Nastyukhin, who switched his camp from Thailand to Dubai this time around, also stated that his two-month fight camp gave him the perfect foundation to walk away with World Title gold.
“One thing I know for sure is that it doesn’t matter who is in front of you once you’re mentally and physically prepared,” he said.
“I’ve done everything I can to win this. This is my opportunity to make my dream a reality, to help my family, so the big difference for me will be my hunger. I prepared and did everything I could, so I’m just ready to get in there and do my job.”
With 24 combined finishes among their shared 28 career victories, much of the talk surrounding this matchup has focused on the high chance of an explosive ending.
Lee knows his rival will be gunning for a knockout, so he has a strategy in place to overcome his best weapons.
“Timofey is always looking to finish. I know he’s not going to be looking to win a safe fight or get a decision win over me — he’s going to be looking to take my head off, and that makes him very dangerous,” Lee offered.
“My game plan going into this is for my strengths to be stronger than his strengths. There are no real weaknesses for him. I just feel like I am better everywhere.”
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Nastyukhin also knows the danger the ONE Lightweight World Champion presents, and he is eager to test his skills against such an elite competitor.
“He’s a young, ambitious, strong fighter. He’s very well-rounded, whether it’s grappling or stand-up [fighting],” the challenger added.
“But I feel it’s a good stylistic matchup for me as well. I have nothing but respect for the guy, but we’ll meet in the cage and see what happens. I’m ready for the best version of him. I think he’s a great fighter like me, and it’s going to be a great matchup.”
Of course, while the Singaporean-American and his Russian rival hold each other in high regard, they’ll be gunning for the win as quickly as possible.
For his part, “The Warrior” is aiming for an opening-round demolition.
“There’s no question I’m here to win this fight. I’m the champion and I feel like I’m the best fighter in the division,” Lee said.
“I think the fight is going to start very quickly, there’s going to be a lot of action early on, and I’m going to end the fight in the first round.”
Nastyukhin, however, believes the reigning king’s aggressiveness and fighting style could play straight into his own hands.
“It’s my time to show the world that I’m the best lightweight,” the Russian stated.
“[Lee] is a guy that believes in himself very much, which is great for him, but his style is very come-forward, and he leaves openings. If he’s going to come forward at me like this with his hands down, it’s going to be a downfall for him.”
All that’s left is for the world’s top lightweight warriors to duke it out in the Circle. And regardless of the result, the route there will be full of high-octane action.