ONE lightweight champion Christian Lee has not given up on his dream of capturing featherweight gold, despite his success at lightweight.
Lee had a banner year in 2019. In May, the 22-year-old stopped Japanese veteran Shynia Aoki to claim the lightweight strap, before adding another belt to his collection five months later after defeating Dagestan’s Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev to become the promotion’s inaugural lightweight Grand Prix Champion. However, Lee still feels he has unfinished business at featherweight. A division currently ruled over by Martin Nguyen, the one man to have defeated him.
“For me, featherweight is where I started my career, and I don’t feel like it is right to leave that division before claiming that belt, ” Lee said, speaking to LowKickMMA.
” I definitely plan on winning that featherweight belt before I move on, but the fight I want is with Martin Nguyen. He has dominated that division; he has taken out everyone in his path so far. He has done a great job of it, so that is the fight I want. I see him staying champ for quite a while longer, so I think that we will see a fight between the two us within the near future.”
The pair have fought twice before with Nguyen, emerging the winner on both occasions. The last time they met was in 2018 in Singapore at ONE: Unstoppable Dreams, with Nguyen, getting his hand raised via a split decision victory. The fight was more a slow burn than the attacking extravaganza fans had anticipated. Still, Lee sees a third meeting between the pair being the polar opposite of their last outing.
“I see the fight playing out completely different than that second time we met in the cage,” Lee explained.
“The reason that fight was so close is because I went in there with no sparring. The whole eight weeks of that camp, I wasn’t able to spar a single time because, in a previous fight against Kazunori Yokota, I broke my thumb. They [ONE] offered me the fight while I was in a cast. They said, ‘You got a featherweight title shot do you want to take it?’ so as a young kid, I was excited I took the shot.
“So when I went in the cage, I was in the best shape of my life, but I didn’t have my timing, my range. I didn’t have all of these things that are essential in preparing for a world title match. That’s why my game was so different, that’s why it ended up such an underwhelming performance, and so I am very disappointed with the outcome of that match.
“I know that both of us as fighters were going in there to finish each other. I think it is only right to make things right, and we take another match and finish it right this time.”
Lee and Nguyen both have title defenses scheduled for their next bouts, so depending on when ONE returns a third meeting between the pair would be unlikely to happen until 2021. The Singapore-based promotion is still unable to hold events, leaving its fighters playing a waiting game regarding when they will be able to compete. Lee may be unsure as to when ONE will be back, but he predicts some major fight announcements once ONE raises its curtains again.
“The way ONE Championship works they like to do it big, and so I am sure that whenever we start up again it’s going to be a string of huge world title fights, super fights and it’s going to be exciting. “
Who would you pick between if Lee and Nguyen fought for a third time?