SINGAPORE - 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 (May 17).
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 bout last May.
"Shinya Aoki 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.
"I feel that I'm better than Shinya (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."
Aoki, who won One's lightweight world title on March 31 in Japan against Edward Folayang, 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 during a press conference after his win in Japan.
"I called out Christian [Lee]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 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 Lee 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 an MMA record of 11 wins - all stoppages - and three losses.
"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.
"I chose to be a professional fighter because I developed a passion for it. I love what I do and that's why I'm here today."
Lee said he does not feel extra pressure to emulate the achievements of his sister Angela, 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 championship.
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 title bout.
Singaporean Amir Khan will take on Turkey's Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev, better known as "Dagi", in the lightweight grand prix semi-finals after Costa Rica's Ariel Sexton pulled out due to injury.
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 for ONE: Enter The Dragon are available from $28 at https://www.sportshub.com.sg/ONEChampionship/
Fans can watch "live" action of the event below.