Iuri Lapicus has made quite a splash since signing for ONE Championship. He arrived with an undefeated record and a fierce reputation. After back-to-back finishes against Shannon Wiratchai and former featherweight king, Marat Gafruov, he swiftly earned a shot at the lightweight title.

Christian Lee is the one holding the strap, and the pair will finally go toe-to-toe at ONE: ‘Inside the Matrix’ next Friday.

They were originally supposed to fight in May but the bout was postponed because of Covid-19. Having not fought since February, Lapicus has had plenty of time to prepare.

“Physically and mentally I am 100% ready! During the lockdown period I was living basically upstairs in my gym with Giorgio and Armen Petrosyan. We always keep our eyes on our comeback so fundamentally it has been one of the longest training camps ever and I feel great.”

Well motivated

The Moldovan born star moved to Italy when he was just 15 and has been dreaming of this opportunity for a long time. To him, winning the belt takes on huge significance,

“It honestly means everything to me,” he said.

”Since the first time I entered a ring as a pro I told myself ‘one day you are gonna be a champion’ and now the time has come to prove myself I was not wrong. But this opportunity goes beyond the sporting aspect. It means a lot for my countries Moldova and Italy and it means a lot for my family, especially for my mother. She did a lot of sacrifices to help me achieve my dreams and the belt can be an amazing way to say ‘thank you’ to her.”

No surprise

As a comparatively new face in the promotion and to MMA in Asia, some may have been surprised that it was Lapicus who was awarded the shot against Lee.

He was not surprised at all,

“Honestly no. Before entering the ring with Gafurov I knew that I was high in the ranking and I was super pumped. After my performance I think it was clear that I was making a statement about deserving a title shot and luckily it is what happened.”

In Lee, he faces an opponent who boasts a stoppage in all but one of his thirteen victories. His last appearance saw him win the ONE lightweight grand prix with a unanimous decision victory over Saygid Arslanaliev at ONE: ‘Century’ Part 1.

Different league

Despite Lee’s various achievements, Lapicus believes he is in a different league to his opponent,

“I studied him a lot during these months, but he did not impress me that much. Of course, he is a well-rounded fighter and he is the champion, but I think that he can’t handle me. He has the belt but he never fought a guy with my power and physicality at this weight category. He doesn’t have enough power to be a real threat. Of course, his ground game is excellent, but you don’t wear a kimono in the cage.”

This will be the first time Lapicus competes in the Lion City, and the event will be held behind-closed-doors due to the pandemic. There are three other title fights on the card and it will be ONE’s biggest show of the year so far. With this, only his third appearance in the promotion, it will be a big opportunity to make a statement. That being said, the 24-year-old is not overly concerned with winning admirers.

“For me fans are super important but honestly I do not care much about what other people think. I just want to be myself and show my passion for the sport I love, and I think fans are gonna love it.”