On Friday, 18 May in Singapore, Christian “The Warrior” Lee will share the spotlight with his world champion sister Angela, as he bids to claim a world title of his own at ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS.
It also offers Lee the chance to not only become the ONE Featherweight World Champion, but also set a new mark as the youngest male athlete to ever hold a mixed martial arts world title. The current overall holder of that record? His sister.
Lee challenges ONE Featherweight & Lightweight World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen in Singapore, in a bout that will see 19-year-old Lee take on the only man to have defeated him as a professional.
While he’ll be roared to the rafters by a packed crowd at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, he’ll also be cheered on from afar by more than 50 of his students, who will be watching the action live from his family’s gym at United MMA in Hawaii.
“It is great. We have a great team here at United MMA. The kids and adults stay up till three or four o’clock in the morning to watch me and Angela compete,” he said.
“They are staying up to watch the coaches who taught them how to grapple, and how to fight. They are watching us go out and compete. I take so much pride knowing that they look up to me.”
Lee may be on the cusp of world championship glory, but he views teaching martial arts as being every bit as important as winning inside the cage.
He teaches the children’s classes at United MMA, and also teaches adults, passing on the knowledge he was taught by his father, Ken. It’s become a real passion for him.
“I have fallen in love with teaching,” said Lee.
“It is a great thing watching a little kid that you taught from day one go out there and, step-by-step, do what you taught them to do.
“We have a couple of 6-year-old kids, and then we have this one kid, and he is just a stud. He takes to grappling so well, and he is so ferocious when he trains. You take so much pride knowing that you helped this kid win a gold medal and feel like a champion.
“It is so rewarding. At the end of the day, that is why I teach these kids.”
Lee’s dedication to teaching has earned accolades in the field of competition, too. United MMA took part in the 2018 NAGA Pacific Grappling Championship, with 36 United MMA members picking up belts, swords, and medals in the process.
“We brought a huge team of 56 competitors to a grappling competition – kids and adults – and they just mopped the floor [with the competition],” he said, proudly.
“We had kids who won extra belts and medals, and I am so proud of them.
“I am with these kids every day. I am on the mats with them. I teach two classes a day from 4pm to 5pm, and from 5pm to 6pm, and I get to watch these kids grow.”
Lee said that while he may be doing the teaching, in doing so he too continues to learn and develop as a martial artist.
“The thing I love the most about teaching is not only watching their technique develop, I am watching my own technique develop,” he explained.
“As I am telling them the things that they need to do, I am correcting myself. I am telling myself what I need to do. It helps me to evolve as a fighter, and evolve as a martial artist. I am definitely better. Through teaching them, I am teaching myself in a way.”
Right now, Lee is fully focused on his own preparations ahead of his world title opportunity against Nguyen. Still aged only 19, the future looks incredibly bright for Lee, but even though many are predicting his own career to take off in a major way, “The Warrior” insists he’ll keep his feet on the ground – and on the mats of United MMA – to continue passing on his knowledge to others.
“I will be teaching martial arts long after my career is over,” Lee states.
“I will be teaching my little brother and sister. I will be teaching my kids one day, and once you pass that on, it is something you never lose. Once you pass those life skills on, they will never forget it.”