When Christian Lee steps into the cage this weekend to take on Kiamrian Abbasov for the ONE welterweight world title, he will be completing a metamorphosis which has seen him mature from a 17-year-old debutant, to ‘The Warrior’ he is today.
Go back seven years and you will find a featherweight Lee, making his first appearance in ONE – what we’ve seen since has been a remarkable journey of highs and lows which can peak on Saturday with the chance to hold titles at two weights simultaneously.
Lee (16-4), was never able to capture the featherweight gold, but when moved up to lightweight was able to in his very first fight – a stunning second round stoppage of Shinya Aoki at ONE Championship: Enter the Dragon in 2019. We went on to win the Lightweight Grand Prix and defend his title on two occasions – both with early first round stoppages.
His rapid progress was somewhat halted when dropping the title to Ok Rae Yoon via decision last year, but responded in the best possible way by immediately reclaiming the gold in August – this time he didn’t put things in the hands of the judges, relying on a barrage of knees to stop things in the second round.
The man born to a fighting family, his sister Angela is another ONE world champion, is now ready – both mentally and physically – to move up in weight and target another title.
“Going into this fight, I feel that my cardio is better than it’s ever been,” he said. “I truly feel like I’m in the best shape that I’ve been in so far. I think it’s easy to make the mistake when you’re moving up a weight division, to just simply put on the size, to put on the extra weight, and then to neglect the cardio.
“I took some time to put on extra weight so that when I did step up the training, and when I did start doing my cardio, I would be able to be in the same shape I was fighting for the lightweight title as I’m going to be for the welterweight title.”
Lee says this is the fight which makes sense, and is confident of claiming the title, and then letting his body adjust to the move up to 185lbs.
“I believe it’s about two years since [Abbasov] defended the welterweight title. I’ve been actively clearing out the lightweight division. So right now, there is no clear contender, and with there being no fight in the lightweight or welterweight division, it only makes sense to put the two champions together.
“When I claim the title, that’s when I take the time to fully make the switch and adjust my weight and adjust my training to be comfortable fighting at 185.”
Assamov (23-5), has himself tried to make the move up a division – failing to claim the middleweight crown earlier this year following a third round stoppage against Reinier de Ridder – and is looking forward to welcoming Lee to the welterweights, but believes it will be a tough night for his opponent.
“Christian is a good opponent,” he said. “He is a good, explosive fighter, but I know his weaknesses and I am not a guy from his division – the rules are different here.”
With the increase in Lee’s weight for this fight, Assamov is keen to see how the jump reflects on his cardio – something the Kyrgyzstan fighter’s wrestling is perfectly suited for.
“As you know, I prefer not to rely only on my wrestling. If he will feel like trading punches, he is welcome. That is what we like to do.
“But if he feels brave enough to wrestle then I can take him to deep waters, and we will see who has more oxygen.”ONE Fight Night 4: Abbasov vs. Lee takes place Saturday November 19 5am GST at the Singapore Indoor Stadium Arena, Singapore. This is a night not to be missed so mark your calendars, download the ONE Super App, and go to watch.onefc.com now!