On Friday, December 8, Luke Lessei will arrive in ONE Championship. The American striker will meet “Smokin” Jo Nattawut in a featherweight Muay Thai battle at ONE Fight Night 17. The promotional debut will be a massive opportunity for the lifelong martial artist.
Lessei grew up in Iowa with martial arts coursing through his veins. His father was a professional fighter and got him involved in martial arts as a child. Growing up on the mats, Lessei’s passion was ingrained in him from an early age.
“He got me into martial arts and training when I was four. So at a really young age, my childhood, most of my memories revolve around martial arts, being in the gym, with my dad, and just growing up with a father training his son to do what he loves to do. And that’s basically been my entire life’s work,” Lessei told ONE.
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Aside from his personal aspirations, Lessei is excited to arrive on the global stage to provide for his family. Competing in U.S. primetime offers new possibilities for where he can take his career, and he is not about to let the opportunity slip between his fingers. He has all of the motivation to go out and put on a show in Bangkok.
“My daughter is gonna be three in February. And my son is three months old. My wife, we’ve been together six years. So that’s my soulmate. We got the same birthday and the same exact doctor. So it’s a cool story, for sure. It sounds dumb, but I want to make money for them. You know, I’m from a small town, and being able to do Muay Thai and just support them. It’s the coolest thing ever. So it’s like, the only thing I care about is, all I got to do is train, and then my family can have everything paid for, you know what I mean? That’s the motivation,” the American said.
His opportunity will come against Nattawut, who is coming off of a narrow decision loss to Tawanchai PK Saenchai in a kickboxing contest. Many believed he got the better of the Muay Thai king, and those fans are clamoring for a rematch in four-ounce gloves. That gives Nattawut a major reason to press the action on Friday.
But Lessei plans to be prepared for all outcomes. “The Chef” believes his creativity will allow him to cook up something spicy no matter what Nattawut offers inside the ring. The ability to adapt on the fly has the American confident he can pull off the upset.
“He’s an aggressive, powerful, high-level fighter. And then, with me, I have the ability to adapt on the fly very quickly. And I know nobody can match my ability to adapt and do things as fast as I can. If you want to elbow, if you want to punch, if you want to kick, if you want to have a defensive battle, I’m good with any of that,” Lessei remarked.
With potential title stakes on the line for Nattawut, the Iowa native feels little pressure is on his shoulders. The freedom to go out and perform to the best of his abilities has him confident he can stun any of his naysayers. At ONE Fight Night 17, Lessei hopes to make a statement and stake his own claim as a featherweight threat.
“I’m just this white kid from Iowa who’s coming to fight Jo Nattawut. I think people might consider that an upset if I win when I win. And I would say, that being said, he has more pressure on him because he has to be, for lack of a better term, a gatekeeper. He can’t let this new generation come in and take what he’s been doing here for how long. So I think overall the more pressure is on him, but in my mind, all the pressure is on me because it’s the biggest fight of my life so far,” Lessei said.
ONE Fight Night 17 airs live on Prime Video on Friday, December 8. The action begins at 8 p.m. EST/5 p.m. PST. The event is free for all Amazon Prime subscribers based in the U.S. and Canada.