Lee gunning for knockout win

Christian Lee is upbeat on facing One's lightweight world champion Shinya Aoki on Friday, saying he has learnt and grown since losing in his first title fight a year ago.
Christian Lee is upbeat on facing One's lightweight world champion Shinya Aoki on Friday, saying he has learnt and grown since losing in his first title fight a year ago.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

MMA fighter confident of winning first One title against grappler Aoki in lightweight bout

Mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Christian Lee has vowed to win his first One Championship title by taking out lightweight world champion Shinya Aoki in the first round of the One: Enter the Dragon main event on Friday.

Lee, who used to train with Aoki at Evolve MMA and knows the Japanese fighter's moves inside out, is confident that the hard work he has put in to improve his skills in the past year will pay off at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

It will be the 20-year-old's second shot at a world title after a unanimous decision loss to Martin Nguyen of Australia in their featherweight title fight last May.

"Shinya likes to work on the ground and submit his opponents, so I've been working on staying on my feet and timing my shots. I'm looking for a TKO (technical knockout) finish on Friday," said Lee at the pre-event press conference at Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre yesterday.

"Shinya is a master on the ground, but I feel that I'm better than him (in mixed martial arts as a whole). I grew up training in every discipline so I'm able to put it all together.

"When we step into that ring, there will be no emotions. It will simply be a test of skill and will and we'll see who the better fighter is.

"It's been a year since my first world title fight and I learnt and grew a lot from that. Now I'm back, stronger than ever. I think everyone will see the improvements I've made to my game."

GOING ALL OUT

When we step into that ring, there will be no emotions. It will simply be a test of skill and will and we'll see who the better fighter is.

CHRISTIAN LEE, who feels that his all-round style gives him the edge against his opponent Shinya Aoki.

Aoki, who won One's lightweight world title on March 31 in Tokyo against Eduard Folayang of the Philippines, is determined to hang on to his belt.

"I'm not just the champion, I'm also ready to challenge as a competitor. I really want to win the fight," said the 36-year-old.

The submission specialist, who boasts 43 wins and eight losses, threw down the gauntlet to Lee after his title win in March.

"I called out Christian because I think he is the best, not only in Asia but also in the world. He is a hungry young lion and very dangerous," said Aoki.

"Now is the best time to hunt the lion down. I've trained with him in the past and we know each other well. He's very strong, fast and explosive. Our styles match up quite well and I think this is going to be a good challenge for me."

Lee is the younger brother of women's atomweight world champion Angela, 22, who faltered in her bid to become One's first two-division women's champion after losing to Chinese strawweight Xiong Jingnan on March 31.

The Canadian siblings have a Singaporean father and fight under the Singapore flag, even though they are not citizens.

"Growing up, I didn't always enjoy training in martial arts," said Lee, who has 11 wins - all stoppages - and three losses in MMA.

"Everything about martial arts is hard and, as a kid, you always lean towards doing things the easy way.

"I'm so thankful that my parents instilled the discipline in me to keep at it."

Lee said he does not feel extra pressure to emulate his sister, who boasts nine wins and one loss in her MMA career.

He said: "I'm so happy for everything that my sister has accomplished. For me, I don't keep score, I don't keep track of everything that Angela accomplishes. I'm on my own journey. I just worry about being the best that I can be."

In the co-main event, Dutch kickboxing superstar Nieky Holzken will take on compatriot Regian Eersel for the inaugural lightweight kickboxing world title.

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter Sage Northcutt will make his debut at Enter the Dragon after being unveiled as One's athlete last December. He will face Cosmo Alexandre of Brazil in the welterweight bout.

After Costa Rica's Ariel Sexton pulled out due to injury, his replacement Amir Khan of Singapore will take on Turkey's Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev, better known as "Dagi", in the lightweight grand prix semi-finals.

Khan said: "Dagi is a ferocious opponent and he hasn't been stopped once. But my team and I plan to do just that. I feel strong and confident about the fight."

•Tickets from $28 are available at sportshub.com.sg/ONEChampionship

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 15, 2019, with the headline 'Lee gunning for knockout win'. Print Edition | Subscribe