MMA: Setback spurring him on to next level

One Championship atomweight champion Angela Lee said her brother Christian trained "like a madman" after his loss last August.
One Championship atomweight champion Angela Lee said her brother Christian trained "like a madman" after his loss last August.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Christian Lee has learnt crucial lessons from his loss last year and uses them as motivation

It is natural for athletes to want to relive their victories, to rewatch the highlight reels of their latest feats. Sitting through replays of defeats, however, is another thing altogether.

But that is exactly what Christian Lee, brother of mixed martial arts star Angela, did. Not once, not twice, but 50 times.

Hyped as the next big thing in MMA and tipped to emulate his famous sister, Christian's world crashed around him last August when he was choked unconscious by Australia's Martin Nguyen.

That defeat, in the first round of their clash at One Championship's Heroes of the World event in Macau, was the first of his six-bout professional career.

But the 18-year-old believes the sobering loss has moulded him into a more complete fighter.

Yesterday, he told The Straits Times: "I must have watched that fight about 50 times already. Every time I watch it, it irritates me but it's something you've got to do to overcome the loss.

LEARNING TO BE PATIENT

Sometimes you can get into the mindset where you don't want to train because there is no fight coming up, but I know I'm not training for a specific opponent. I'm training to be the best fighter in the world.

CHRISTIAN LEE, who says his rigorous training schedule is designed to iron out any potential weaknesses in technique.

"A loss is never easy, especially when it's your livelihood. But it motivated me to train harder than I ever trained before... to never let that happen again."

Reflecting on the Nguyen bout, he said: "One of the key lessons was to stay composed. I was so anxious to get the knockout blow that I neglected the defence. It's something you learn from experience.

"I was also fighting a lot. I had six fights in nine months, I wasn't able to get a solid fight camp in but I don't want to give any excuses.

"I'm in a much better place now than I was before the loss. If we were to fight again, I have absolute confidence I'd come out victorious."

Far from wallowing in bitterness, the taekwondo black belt did what he does best - he got on the mat and started smashing the pads again.

"I was training five times a day. I became obsessed with closing every single gap in my game," said Christian.

Angela, One Championship's women's atomweight champion, added: "He took the loss very hard. He was very hard on himself and just started training like a madman.

"To see him acknowledge the defeat, watch the tape and work on his mistakes the way he did makes me very proud."

The siblings were speaking at Novena Medical Centre, where they were getting customised mouth guards at Expat Dental.

The 3D printed custom mouth guards help protect against traumatic head injuries and are thinner than traditional mouthpieces, allowing users to breathe easier through their mouths.

Angela will be using hers at her title bout on March 11, against Jenny Huang of Chinese Taipei in Bangkok's Impact Arena.

Christian, though, will have to wait to use his. The featherweight fighter, who has not entered the ring since his loss, does not have a fight pencilled in yet.

It is believed he could be on the fight card for One Championship's April event in Manila.

For some, the wait might be exasperating. But Christian is taking it in his stride.

"Sometimes you can get into the mindset where you don't want to train because there is no fight coming up, but I know I'm not training for a specific opponent. I'm training to be the best fighter in the world," he said.

"Whenever One Championship gives me the call, whoever they set me up against, I'll be ready."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2017, with the headline 'Setback spurring him on to next level'. Print Edition | Subscribe