In a very short period of time, ONE Championship lightweight champion Christian Lee has nearly wiped out every top contender the division has to offer him.
After he won the title with a second-round TKO over Shinya Aoki in 2019, Lee dispatched highly touted Dagestani prospect Saygid “Dagi” Arslanaliev and then needed less than four minutes to take out both Iuri Lapicus and Timofey Nastyukhin in consecutive fights.
On Friday at ONE: Revolution, Lee defendd his title for the third time as he faces Ok Rae Yoon in the main event but a victory will almost create as many problems as it solves.
If Lee earns his seventh consecutive win in a row overall, he will have effectively eliminated every top contender currently ranked by ONE Championship in the lightweight division. That also means he would likely be staring at a long list of potential rematches in his future.
“I would say I’m proud of the accomplishments that I’ve been able to achieve in the last three years since joining the lightweight division,” Lee told MMA Fighting. “It was kind of unexpected the way I stepped up to lightweight when Shinya called me out and right away it was for the belt.
“From there, top contender to the next and after this fight with Ok Rae Yoon, I will have completely cleared out the top five in the lightweight division. It’s crazy how everything happened from one big fight to the next.”
Rather than attempting to mow down the same fighters a second time, Lee would much rather face some new competition with one person in particular serving as a dream opponent.
Former UFC champion Eddie Alvarez joined the ONE Championship roster in 2018 but unfortunately he hasn’t found much success yet. He’s currently sporting a 1-2 record with one no contest and that’s made it difficult to justify putting him into a title fight against someone like Lee.
That said, Lee would love the chance to add a legend like Alvarez to his resume but he needs the UFC and Bellator veteran to at least do his part to earn it.
“I’ve heard that Eddie’s been wanting to fight me for some time now,” Lee said. “Ever since I won the belt, I’m sure he’s been wanting to fight me because that’s the title he wants. On the other hand, I’m sitting here waiting for him to win a few fights, too, so we can make that fight happen.
“He keeps calling for that fight and I’m all for it. I’d love to accept the challenge but so far he hasn’t been to put together a string of wins to get himself a title shot. I’m sitting back and defending my belt against Ok Rae Yoon and from there we’ll see what Eddie can do to earn himself a shot.”
As much as Lee would like Alvarez to put together several wins in a row, he’ll be satisfied with just one more victory to set up the title fight because otherwise he’s likely going to have to run it back with a past opponent assuming he gets past Ok on Friday.
“I’d rather face a new opponent than to run it back with someone that I’ve already beaten and finished,” Lee said. “I am rooting for Eddie to get a win and I will be supporting that fight. I do think that Eddie just needs to win one more match to get the title shot. That’s really how I feel.
“Hopefully his next match is going to be a good one and he gets his hand raised because myself, Eddie and the fans around the world have been waiting to see that match. I’m ready for that any time.”
Beating Ok this weekend and then getting past Alvarez would only strengthen Lee’s case that he is the best lightweight in the sport, although he’s not expecting to receive those kind of accolades in the United States just yet.
Because he primarily competes in Asia and the UFC remains the biggest show in the western world, Lee would probably have to earn wins over the likes of Dustin Poirier or Charles Oliveira to earn a little more respect with American audiences but none of that concerns him.
Lee welcomes the chance to prove himself in those kinds of fights but he’s also not going to lose any sleep because some ranking doesn’t have him sitting in the No. 1 position.
“For me, I’m not really chasing the respect of fans. I’m not chasing the respect of anyone in the sport,” Lee said. “I’m just out here doing what I love to do. Fighting, defending my belt and I feel like in time, my fighting will prove that I’m the best fighter in the world. I’d rather do the talking with my actions.
“There is a time when ONE Championship comes to the U.S. and there may be a time when ONE Championship does super fights against other promotions. So when that time comes, I’ll have my opportunity to prove that I’m the best — what I already feel that I am. For me, I’m just waiting for the opportunity to prove that but in the meantime, it doesn’t bother me if anyone looks past me or doesn’t really know about my credentials yet.”