By THE NATION
But the young man nicknamed “The Warrior,” who just recently turned 22, shocked the world and became the youngest male mixed martial arts world champion in history by putting together an impeccable performance, not only beating Aoki, but finishing him inside of two rounds.
Like a true champion, Lee does not mind taking on the best challengers in his division to further prove his claim to the lightweight throne as legitimate.
Undefeated Moldovan Iuri Lapicus is the current number one contender at lightweight. He owns two high-profile victories over top talents including Thailand’s Shannon Wiratchai, and former featherweight king Marat Gafurov.
Sitting at the number two spot is Turkey’s Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev, who Lee already once defeated in another one-sided affair during the final round of the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix Championship. Lee stepped in as a late replacement for American Eddie Alvarez, and ended up winning the tournament.
Needless to say, Lee is in pole position right now, as far as the hottest athletes go in ONE Championship.
“I will defend my belt against anyone, anytime. The lightweight division is the most stacked division in ONE Championship, so I feel like it will only be right to start with the number one contender and work my way down until my division is cleared out,” said Lee, about his plans to defend his title.
Not looking past Lapicus, however, Lee says he is also open to making other high-profile bouts, particularly against legends in Alvarez and two-time former ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard Folayang of the famed Team Lakay.
A showdown with Alvarez, the former UFC lightweight champion, would effectively pit the best in the east versus the best in the west, something that combat sports enthusiasts have long clamored for.
Lee is wise not to take any opponent lightly.
“Eddie [Alvarez] has done enough in his career to make him a legend of this sport, so I would love to share the ONE Circle with him when the time comes. I think that our styles would make for an exciting fight for the fans,” said Lee.
“I think that Eddie is a very well-rounded mixed martial artist. He has great striking, wrestling, and just recently displayed great Jiu-Jitsu in his last outing against Eduard Folayang. He’s a very complete fighter who does not have too many weaknesses. It would be a big mistake to underestimate his skill set.”
As for Folayang, who is regarded as a national icon by many in his native Philippines, Lee says it would be an honor to share the stage with one of Asia’s most beloved sports heroes.
“I would love to share the ONE Circle with Eduard Folayang. I have a lot of respect for all that he’s accomplished in his career, and I think that we could put on a great show for the fans,” said Lee.
“Eduard is a very good striker, and is now rounding out his wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu. However, I feel that his main strengths are his heart and his killer instinct. He’s the two-time former ONE Lightweight World Champion, so he doesn’t have many weaknesses. I think he’s a great fighter.”
Despite many potentially incredible matchups against the lightweight division’s elite, Lee says he also aims to eventually become a two-division ONE World Champion by taking on a familiar adversary. As soon as his first title defense at lightweight is out of the way, Lee is gunning for Australian Martin Nguyen’s ONE Featherweight World Title.
“After I successfully defend my belt, I plan on going back down to featherweight to challenge Martin Nguyen for his title,” said Lee.
“I am the reigning and undisputed ONE Lightweight World Champion, and also the number one contender in the featherweight division. The only reason I go back down to featherweight will be to fight for the title.”
Lee has had two tries at defeating Nguyen in the past, coming up short on both occasions. However, the young “Warrior” continues to improve with every bout, and promises to show “The Situ-Asian” something different if and when they meet in the Circle once again.