Christian “The Warrior” Lee was once just known as Angela Lee’s little brother. But once he stepped foot inside the professional arena, his talents showed he was every bit her equal and took his spot beside her as an up-and-coming star.
His progression has been quick, and his performances earned him accolades along the way. It culminated in 2019 when Lee upset Shinya Aoki for the ONE Lightweight World Championship.
As Lee looks forward to defending the throne in 2020, let’s take a peek back at how he ascended to the top of the division and became its champion.
Lee made his professional debut in ONE Championship as a teenager and competed five times before his 18th birthday. Impressively, Lee not only went 5-0 in those bouts, but he finished each of his five opponents.
After just becoming a legal adult, Lee challenged Martin Nguyen at ONE: Heroes of the World. He would suffer his first professional defeat but return with another four-fight win streak. The Canadian-born Singaporean finished each of those bouts as well, including a TKO over Kotetsu Boku.
His final match before entering a new decade, Lee earned a rematch with Nguyen. It was a hard-fought split decision loss, but one that showed how much he had grown as a mixed martial artist.
Before leaving his teens, Lee amassed a 9-2 professional record. The display of his skills showed he was a prospect worth watching.
Christian Lee Overcomes Adversity
The loss to Nguyen, a failed bid at ONE lightweight gold, forced Lee to take a few steps back in his quest to join his sister, Angela, as a ONE World Champion.
But Lee was not going to rest on his laurels. He went right back to work and returned nearly four months later against Edward Kelly. It did not go as planned.
In just 2:19 of the first round, Lee was DQ’d for the use of an illegal suplex. The loss marked his third professional defeat, and the first time he dropped back-to-back bouts. However, without suffering any injuries, he was able to return in short order.
After suffering the disqualification, Lee got back into the ONE Circle just two months later to get right back on the proverbial horse. He took on Kazuki Tokudome at ONE: Heart of the Lion and won by first-round TKO.
The quick return and dominant performance showed his mental toughness. He did not allow a loss to Martin Nguyen or a disqualification deter him from making an impact. And his hard work would pay off with a magical 2019.
A Banner Year for Christian Lee
After closing 2018 on a high note, Lee began his 2019 campaign by running his match against Kelly back at ONE: Eternal Glory. Once again, the bout ended in the first round. This time, however, it was a decisive TKO finish for Lee.
The win earned Lee a title shot against Japanese grappling ace Shinya Aoki.
Defying the odds and expectations, the then 20-year-old upset Aoki with a second-round TKO victory to net his first World Championship. If his year ended there, it would have been a success. To stand atop the division and be a champion alongside his sister would have been enough.
But he got the call to be a late replacement for the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix. He met Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev in the finals and won a tough three-round decision. The victory firmly supplanted him atop the division.
3-0, with two title victories, took Lee from being seen only as a prospect to being heralded as one of the world’s top competitors. Now, Lee has a target on his back. In 2020, it will be about defending that title.
First up? The undefeated Iuri Lapicus. When the bout occurs, it will be a can’t miss affair between two sensational talents. If Lee can defend his title, expect his star to continue to rise as one of the world’s best athletes.