Christian Lee knows what it feels like to be disqualified. He thought he had knocked out Edward Kelly at ONE: ‘Beyond the Horizon’ but was handed a loss after the referee ruled he had suplexed the Filipino on his head.
So perhaps it is not surprising that the reigning ONE Championship lightweight champion is sympathetic towards Eddie Alvarez who is coming off the most high profile disqualification loss in the promotion’s history,
“I’ve been on the bad end of a disqualification as well in my career. I fought Edward Kelly in Shanghai, I picked him up and I suplexed him face down and then I punched him out and after the fight had finished they called the fight a disqualification and it counted as a loss on my record. So I do know how Eddie feels and I sympathize because I’ve been in his position before.”
Alvarez was on the verge of beating Iuri Lapicus at ONE on TNT when the fight was paused due to the illegal blows. Had he done so the former UFC and Bellator lightweight champion would almost certainly have been handed a shot at Lee’s title.
But Lee, who successfully defended the belt at ONE on TNT Part II, thinks that the loss leaves Alvarez a long way off a shot at this belt,
“I don’t feel I need to fight Eddie. The guy I just knocked out in one round knocked out Eddie in one round so if the fight never happens we know how that would have went down.”
Lee is coming off a first round stoppage win over Timofey Nastyukhin. The Russian had previously knocked out Alvarez in similar style at ONE: ‘A New Era’ which clearly gives the champion a lot of confidence.
Lapicus is medically suspended at the moment but Lee thinks Alvarez could become a contender if he beats Lapicus convincingly,
“All he has to do is get past Iuri in impressive fashion and the title shot is his.”
Having beaten the top four ranked lightweights in impressive fashion Lee is rapidly running out of opponents at lightweight. He admits there is no obvious candidate for the next title shot,
“Right now there’s no-one. I knocked over #1, #2, #3 and #4 of the top five contenders in my division but I will continue to train hard and it can take one fight for a contender to prove themselves. So I’ll be keeping my eye on the lightweight division and keeping my options open for other big fights.”
That could involve a welterweight title shot. Lee confirmed that this was an option he would be open to,
“There’s just so much that I have planned, one thing is moving up to welterweight and claiming that belt.”
In ONE Championship welterweight fighters are required to weigh in at 185lbs and pass hydration tests to prove they are not dehydrating themselves to make weight. Lee feels he is big enough to be competing in a higher division,
“It takes me a few weeks to diet and get down to 170 for lightweight. Off season I’m walking around at 185 while I’m training.”
Lee is also adamant that based on his previous achievements he should be granted an immediate title shot if he decided to move up,
“I would be looking to go straight for the belt. Lightweight is the toughest division in ONE Championship and across the world, it’s the most stacked division out there and I’ve cleared out the division. If I moved up to welterweight I would feel like I deserved a shot straightaway.”
There was some suggestion that he would be set for a prolonged break from competitive action after the birth of his first child. But Lee confirmed he would be fighting again before the end of the year,
“I am going to take a little bit of time off once my baby’s born. I plan on spending a lot of time with her and my wife just resting and enjoying all the hard work I’ve put in this last few months. I will take a break but I plan on coming back before the end of the year.”
The win over Nastyukhin has enhanced Lee’s claim to be the best lightweight in the world. It took a split second to finish the fight but the 22 year old says a lot of thought and preparation went into picking the perfect moment to land that left hook,
“This whole fight camp we focused on timing over speed and power. We knew that Timofey would being the speed and the power but, for us, it was about finding the right timing to land that shot and my left hook was able to connect.”
Whether or not Lee is the best lightweight in the world is open to conjecture. But there can’t be many better 22 year olds out there and he still feels he has plenty of room for improvement,
“I feel like I’m at the beginning of my journey. In no way have I reached my peak and that’s the scary part for my opponents.”
The lightweight landscape could look very different by the end of the year. Alvarez will have had the opportunity to work his way into the rankings while someone like Marat Gafurov or Ok Rae Yoon could stake a claim.
But Lee is the undisputed king of the division and based on his current form it is going to take a truly special contender to dethrone him.