Christian “The Warrior” Lee had a busy 2018 that had its ups and downs, but he would not change a thing.
The 20-year old phenom competed in four bouts, pulled off a submission that he invented, headlined a card alongside his sister, competed in his first World Title contest, and took a match-up on just a few days notice and still managed to pull off a first-round TKO.
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Posted by ONE Championship on Sunday, December 9, 2018
He also faced plenty of adversity in 2018 – as he fell short in his bid for the ONE Featherweight World Title against Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen, and suffered another loss due to an accidental foul on Edward “The Ferocious” Kelly.
However, each of those experiences has helped him to learn and develop in his life and his career.
“2018 was a big year of growth for me as a person, and as a martial artist,” Lee says.
“I definitely learned a lot about myself, and I can’t say that if I could go back, I would change anything about this year.
“I went into that fight healing up from a broken hand – no sparring for eight weeks – and it went to a split decision. I know with a full camp and a healthy body, I would finish him.
“The other two wins were great. Just more paydays for me. I don’t have any bad blood or bad feelings about 2018. I’m just excited to be going into the next year with this momentum.”
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Posted by ONE Championship on Thursday, December 13, 2018
The year started with a spectacular win over veteran competitor Kazunori Yakota, who has nearly four times as many professional bouts as Lee.
None of that mattered when they clashed as the Hawaiian superstar wrapped up his signature ‘Terminator guillotine’ to finish Yokota in the second round.
“Yokota was a very tough fighter and I’m glad I got the chance to face him in the ring,” Lee says.
“It was a great way to start off the year.”
It was the second time Lee faced Nguyen, and while he didn’t come away with the win, he still says the lessons learned over those five rounds were invaluable to his evolution as a martial artist.
“It was a great learning experience just being in there for five rounds and going the distance,” Lee explains.
“That was something new for me in my career. Secondly, coming off of that fight, it forced me to train differently.
“Ever since that fight, I’ve upped my work rate. I’ve looked into more detail in my training, in my fight analysis. I’ve just become a better martial artist and a much better fighter because of that fight.
“Whether I won or lost that fight, it was a good learning experience for me because it pushed me to the next level.”
Following the showdown with Kelly in September, Lee then accepted a short-notice assignment against Kazuki Tokudome in November.
Despite having only five days to prepare, Lee did not hesitate for a second to accept the match-up, and it took him little more than three minutes to prove why with a TKO.
His total domination for as long as the encounter lasted made it arguably the most impressive performance of his career so far.
“He was a tough, tough veteran,” Lee says about Tokudome.
“I was fully prepared to go all three rounds with him, but we executed our game plan to a T, and that led us to an early stoppage. I give all the credit to my team and my dad.”
With 2019 just around the corner, Lee is excited to stay as busy as possible with hopes of competing five or six times next year.
The end goal remains the same because Lee is never giving up until he becomes champion, but until then, he is going to take every opportunity that is presented to him – even if it is outside his weight class.
“2019 is the year I win the belt – absolutely. I don’t really care who’s the champ at the time, I just want to fight for that belt. I know 2019 will be the year,” Lee says.
“If I could make flyweight, I’d be in that grand prix. If a spot opens up, I’d jump into that lightweight grand prix. I’m hungry, I just want to keep fighting. That’s all I want.”
For now, “The Warrior” will have to settle for a rematch with Kelly at ONE: ETERNAL GLORY.
He will get the chance at redemption on 19 January at the Istora Senayan in Jakarta, Indonesia.