It’s quite literally a family thing. That fact is undeniable.
Christian Lee is the second oldest child in the first family of ONE Championship. His parents, Ken and Jewelz Lee, are both decorated martial artists and longtime coaches. After spending many years as a national martial arts coach in Canada, Ken Lee relocated his family to Hawaii in 2002, where he eventually opened his own gym, United MMA. At the time of the move, Christian and his older sister Angela were five and seven years old, respectively. Both siblings have already won and defended titles multiple times in ONE, which is where they both have spent the entirety of their pro MMA careers.
“I made my professional MMA debut at 17 years old,” Christian Lee told Combat Press. “I made it up in my mind, at pretty early age, that I wanted to be a professional MMA fighter. I started it because I loved to fight. I just grew up training my whole life, and I love getting in there and just fighting – feeling the whole experience. Now, seven years into the game, I’m a dad now, I have a family – a wife and a baby – so now I’m doing it because it’s something that I’m good at. It’s a great way to provide for my family, while giving me the flexibility to make my own schedule.”
Lee has had what some fighters would consider a lifetime of career fighting under his belt, even though he is only 24 years old. He is 15-4 with 10 knockout wins and four submissions. He has only been stopped once, in his sixth pro fight, when he dropped a first-round submission to eventual, and now former, ONE featherweight champ Martin Nguyen. That was in Aug. 2016, and when Lee had the chance for revenge over Nguyen in May 2018, he lost again, but that one was a split decision and also for Nguyen’s title.
By May 2017, Lee was 11-3 after only three-and-a-half years as a pro. At ONE Championship: Enter The Dragon, he faced legendary veteran Shinya Aoki for the ONE lightweight title. Lee upset the champ with a second-round TKO, and he would go on to defend the title three time before facing Ok Rae Yoon in Sep. 24. After five rounds, Lee lost the fight by unanimous decision, but he visibly did not agree with the outcome. It definitely appeared that he had done enough to win, but the judges saw it differently.
“As I looked back and I watched the tape, I’m not happy with my performance,” Lee admitted. “I feel like I definitely could have done better training ahead of that fight. I’ve spoken before in previous interviews how I didn’t get the proper preparation – the normal training camp I get for my fights – so I think that definitely played in in the later rounds. However, I was still able to push, so I feel like being tired wasn’t a factor of losing the fight, because I was still able to drop him in the third round. I landed a shot, and I saw his eyes roll back in the fifth round. I feel like I dominated every area of that fight in terms of the way the fight should have been judged.
“I think that, even with a clear head, looking back on the fight, I still see myself winning in any way that you put it – whether it’s on the 10-point system or if you go by ONE Championship scoring criteria. They go by the biggest factors like a near-finish – you know, where I dropped him and had two submission attempts – and then the next biggest factor is damage, like where I broke his eye socket in the first round and continued to put damage on him throughout the fight. He had to be carried out of the ring by his corner, because his legs were beat up.
“One thing that was surprising for me was his ability to take a punch. He definitely has a good chin, and he’s a very durable fighter, so I still feel like he can be knocked out. I still feel like he can be submitted, but the main thing is just to make it absolutely sure that there’s no way he can he can get up once I get him down again.”
Lee has not been in the ONE Circle since his lost to Ok. Regardless of the outcome of that fight, he feels blessed to be where he is at such a young age.
“I’m happy with ONE Championship,” Lee said. “They’ve treated me well so far, and all of my professional fights have been with them. I’m happy with where I’m at today, so can’t complain. I would like to put a stamp down to prove that I’m the best fighter in the world across any organization. So, right now, I’m focused on getting my belt back, but we’ll see where it goes from there.
“I’m looking forward to this rematch, but, big picture, I’m just grateful for all the experiences I’ve been able to have in a short time. And, at 24, I feel like I’ve been fighting for a long time, so I’ve got a few more goals in this fight game. I don’t plan on going anywhere, but I definitely plan on claiming a lot more belts before I’m done with this journey.”
In early July, it was announced that the title rematch between Lee and Ok would headline ONE 160, which takes place this Friday, Aug. 26, live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium. It is a rematch nearly a year in the making, and neither man has entered the cage since. Lee wanted the fight sooner, but the cards didn’t fall that way.
“I wanted an immediate rematch, and they said that they would line it up, but I think there was a few things you know he was healing from, like his broken orbital from one of the knees I landed in the first round,” Lee explained. “You know, that’s going to take some time to heal up before he can train properly, and then, after that, I think they were just trying to line up a date. I know they were doing a few smaller shows in the meantime, and I’m pretty sure they wanted to line it up for a bigger card. This one is going to be big. It’s going to be in Singapore, but it’s going to be primetime in Korea, which I feel is what they want for this rematch. I think that’s the reason the flight was pushed back.”
With a wife, a one-year-old daughter and a gym to run, Lee has had plenty on his plate. If he’s not coaching, working on the books or training, Lee and his wife like to take their daughter to the park, the pool and, of course, the beach. However, he is certainly chomping at the bit to get his title back. That goal is firmly in his sights, but he doesn’t plan to stop there.
“I plan to get my belt back, you know, and do so in dominant fashion,” Lee said. “And then I’d like to defend the belt. I’ve defended the belt, but this would be my third time since claiming the belt after I won it from Shinya Aoki. So, this actually would be my fourth world title win, so I just want to defend it one more time. From there, I’ll see where it goes. I think definitely after I win it, I won’t be happy moving anywhere else before I defend it one more time. Then, I can keep my options open. I was looking to go to welterweight or maybe a cross-promotion event. I’ll definitely keep my options open.”
Lee’s siblings are also hard at work in their own respective careers. Angela is currently the ONE atomweight champ. She won the belt in May 2016, has defended it five times, and even fought Xiong Jing Nan for the strawweight title in Mar. 2019, albeit unsuccessfully. However, she is currently scheduled to rematch Xiong for the strawweight belt at ONE on Prime Video 2 on Sep. 30.
The Lee’s 18-year-old sister Victoria is also fighting in ONE, having amassed a 3-0 record between Feb. 2021 and Sep. 2021. Their 16-year-old brother Adrian also looks to make his ONE debut, as soon as they are ready to add him to the roster.
“It’s crazy looking back, but, I know, for me, I decided it really early,” Christian Lee said. “I think I was about 13 when I made up my mind that I wanted to be a professional fighter. My sister, she was like 15 at the time – my older sister Angela – and we both really wanted to fight. And, then, my two younger siblings, at that time, they didn’t even enjoy training, but they had to, because we had a family gym. They had to go into the gym every day and train, but, I think, as the years went by, they just realized that they’ve been training their whole lives, and they’re so good at this that they can make it a career too. I’m glad they ended up enjoying it and loving what they do also.”
As the Lee dynasty continues to grow, Christian is looking to get back to where he knows he belongs – the top of the heap in the ONE lightweight division. One Friday, he will have the chance to earn back the title that he feels is rightfully his. The only thing standing in his way is Korea’s Ok
“I’m going to make sure it’s an exciting fight, and I’m definitely going to be pushing for the finish every second,” Lee intimated.
ONE 160: Ok vs. Lee II kicks off Friday, Aug. 26, with the lead card airing live and free on ONE’s Facebook and YouTube pages starting at 7:30 a.m. ET. The main card will air on ONE’s YouTube page starting at 8:30 a.m. ET.
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