Christian Lee: The Rise of a New Dragon

Jun 26, 2019

At One Championship “Enter the Dragon,” Christian Lee slayed a proverbial dragon in Asian mixed martial arts legend Shinya Aoki. The 20-year-old upended the former Dream and two-time One lightweight champion by technical knockout in less than two rounds. In doing so, the “Warrior” earned his first world title, joining his sister, Angela Lee, in being concurrent sibling champions.

“Initially, it was surreal. The title shot came out of nowhere,” Lee told Sherdog. “It all happened so quickly, but now I feel like I’m really starting to realize that I am the world champion, and I am just staying hungry waiting for the next top contender.”

It is not every day that a fighter can earn a title in a major organization before they can legally consume alcohol. Yet, Lee achieved such a feat by going through not only a multi-time titlist and face of the promotion, but a man he had previously trained with at Evolve MMA. The booking for Aoki’s first title defense -- after regaining the belt from Eduard Folayang in March at One Championship “A New Era” -- was unusual. Since “Tobikan Judan” specifically named Lee as a competitor he would like to face, despite the pair’s 15-year age gap, and having 28 more wins than his younger foe even had fights.

Sherdog asked Lee if he thought Aoki may have viewed him as a beatable opponent, and that belief was the reason for respectfully calling him out for a fight. The Hawaiian did not feel that was the case, and was actually honored that his former training partner saw him as a deserving contender.

“I feel like he just wanted to test himself against a young athlete like myself,” Lee says.

The 15-fight veteran believes Aoki saw him as a worthy foe after earning his respect during training sessions at Evolve. Lee joined the gym at 17, so it comes as no surprise that early interactions favored Aoki. However, as time passed, the encounters became far more even. Those sessions instilled in Lee a belief he was more than ready for the test.

“Throughout the years, our matches in the gym started getting more and more competitive,” says Lee. “The last time we trained together I was 18, and that’s when it was pretty even. From there, two years later [at] 20-years-old, I was very confident my skills had improved tremendously since we last faced each other.”

In this exclusive interview, Lee talks about how he grew in confidence after being taken down twice by the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt in the first round, and surviving an armbar attempt from the submission ace. He then chatted about what it meant to him to beat an influential figure in the sport, as well as joining his sister in being sibling champions.


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