When it comes to ONE Championship lightweight titleholder Christian Lee’s 2019, there’s no denying that it has been the most important year in his four-year MMA career.
After splitting his four bouts in 2018, Lee has managed to find consistency in 2019 with wins in both of his bouts, including his last fight against Shinya Aoki in May that netted him his ONE Championship title.
“2019 has been a great year for me so far,” Lee told MMAWeekly.com. “I started off the year with a win over Edward Kelly, and then it was quite a surprise when I got the offer for the title shot against Shinya. I’m glad I was able to come out victorious in that fight and win the belt as well.
“2019 has been a great year so far – definitely the best year of my career – and I’m excited to close it out on a good note.”
For Lee, picking up a title win over such a well-known and respected fighter in Aoki was a career-defining victory, made possible in part to his commitment to more closely adhere to game plans going into his fights now.
“We created specific strategies for each of my opponents and I was able to execute them and it definitely paid off in my fights,” said Lee. “I definitely feel like everything is going to plan so far.
“(Defeating Aoki) was a very surreal moment for me. Just the whole experience, getting a title shot, competing in Singapore, having all my family there, it was an amazing experience for me. I’m so grateful that all the hard work I put into that camp paid off in that fight.”
On Saturday in Tokyo, Lee (12-3) will step in as a late replacement to face Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev (8-1) in the Lightweight Grand Prix finals at ONE Championship: Century – Part 1, which will be the promotion's first broadcast live in the United States on TNT.
“I think Saygid is a very dangerous opponent,” Lee said. “He’s finished every single one of his opponents so far (in the fights he’s won), and I know that he’s going to be looking to finish me, however I believe in my skillset.
“And even though the fight is on short notice, I’m sure that I’m prepared to face anyone at any time, so I’m not worried about this match.”
For Lee, getting a title shot on ONE’s US broadcast debut is a big thing and could lead to an even bigger 2020, but for now his focus is firmly on Arslanaliev and winning this fight first.
“It’s ONE’s biggest event to date, so it’s very exciting, but the night of the fight there’s only one thing on my mind and that’s getting through my opponent as quickly as possible,” said Lee.
“The thing about the fight game is that it is so unpredictable. In 2018 I couldn’t have guessed how 2019 would have played out the way it did, so I’m just going to train as hard as I can and be ready for anything.”
Highlights from Christian Lee's win over Shinya Aoki and Sage Northcutt's disastrous debut
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