Lightweight has become the most-talked about weight class in recent weeks, with reigning UFC 155-pound champion Khabib Nurmagomedov contemplating retirement while top-ranked contenders Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier battle for second place.
But that’s just one of many top organizations.
On the other side of the world, Christian Lee rules the lightweight roost for ONE Championship, winning five straight with four of those victories ending by way of technical knockout, including last October’s first-round finish over Iuri Lapicus.
So how would “The Warrior” stack up against the best UFC has to offer?
“I believe I’m at the top,” Lee told MMAmania.com. “Of course there are many other organizations out there and many great fighters, but I believe in my skill set and I’m confident that if I go up against anyone I’m gonna come out on top.”
That includes Nurmagomedov, undefeated at 29-0 with 19 finishes.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Khabib and if he is indeed retiring, there is no point in talking about a fight,” Lee insisted. “But I do feel like I have the skill set to beat him. Everyone who’s fought him in the past, they are good fighters, but predominantly strikers and weren’t ready to deal with his grappling and jiu-jitsu.”
Lee, 22, is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) black belt under IBJJF legend Mike Fowler but did the bulk of his training under his father and United MMA Hawaii coach Ken Lee, himself the owner of a BJJ black belt to complement his black belts in Taekwondo and Pankration.
Christian also scored FILA Grappling titles in two different weight classes.
“Khabib’s previous opponents just didn’t have enough depth in their ground game,” Lee continued. “With my wrestling and jiu-jitsu background, I feel that I would be more than capable of giving him a great fight and getting my hand raised.”
Lee (14-3) turned the combat sports community upside down with his stunning, second-round technical knockout victory over grappling deity Shinya Aoki at ONE Championship: “Enter the Dragon” back in May 2019, a fight that had the young Hawaiian pegged as a sizable underdog.
More impressive is how the aptly nicknamed “Warrior” didn’t score a fluke finish or win by some unforeseen mishap. Lee was perilously stuck in one of Aoki’s deadly armbar submissions, but calmly worked his way out of trouble before getting their fight back to the feet and finishing “Tobikan Judan.”
So what’s next for Lee?
“Right now there is no fight booked, just waiting for ONE to give me the name,” Lee said. “Moving forward there are two or three guys who will make for really exciting matchups that I have yet to take out. Timofey (Nastyukhin) knocked out Eddie Alvarez, so he’s definitely in my sights.”
Alvarez, who wore championship gold for both UFC and Bellator MMA, joined the ONE Championship roster after parting ways with Dana White and Co. back in late 2018. “The Underground King” stumbled in his ONE debut, but rebounded in his sophomore effort by tapping out Eduard Folayang.
“I knew once Eddie joined the promotion that it was a fight I was going to have to take,” Lee said. “I do think he needs one or two more wins before we can make that happen, to get that title shot, but I’m looking forward to three title defenses next year, I plan to stay busy.”
It doesn’t get any busier than being a parent and Lee is expecting his first child with wife Katie in April, just five days apart from sister and ONE atomweight champion Angela Lee, who will also become a first-time parent with husband and BJJ coach Bruno Pucci.
Lee expects to make his lightweight return in second quarter 2021.