When Eddie Alvarez was forced out of his ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix final showdown with Saygid Guseyn “Dagi” Arslanaliev, ONE Championship began a frantic search for a replacement opponent. In the end, it was ONE Lightweight World Champion Christian Lee who stepped up.
Lee will now fight Dagi on the main card of ONE: Century – Part 1. Stateside, the card will air on Saturday, October 12 at 11:00pm ET on TNT.
“It’s crazy how it all went down, actually,” Lee told BJPENN.com, recounting his decision to accept this short-notice fight. “I was just getting ready to teach the normal kids class [at United MMA], and my Dad and I got a call. They were asking if I could step in as a late replacement in the finals of the Grand Prix against Saygid Arslanaliev.”
Lee says his only real reservation when it came to accepting this short-notice fight was how it would affect his older sister Angela. Angela is set to defend her ONE Atomweight World Title opposite Xiong Jing Nan on the ONE: Century card, and there was some understandable worry that this shake-up might joggle her focus.
“All I had to do was cross-check with my sister, make sure it was going to be ok with her being on the same card that night,” he said. “It’s something that was a big concern for me.
“Once we’d gotten the all-clear from everyone, we sent out a reply within the same day.”
Lee’s new opponent Dagi has developed a reputation as one of the most ferocious finishers on the ONE roster, yet Lee says this was not much of a consideration. In fact, as the reigning champ, he expected to fight Dagi sooner or later any way.
“In terms of Dagi as an opponent, he’s one of the most dangerous fighters in the lightweight division and on the whole ONE Championship roster,” Lee said of his upcoming foe. “So I’ve got to give him credit where it’s due, but I believe in my skillset, and I know that I’m the best fighter in the world. I’ve proven that. I’m the titleholder. So when you’re the champ, you have to be ready, any time anywhere. That’s my approach.
“He is one of the top contenders and I’m the champ, so I’m going to have to fight him anyway, whether it’s now or later,” he added. “It doesn’t matter to me.”
One interesting detail of this scenario, of course, is that Lee’s lightweight belt will not be on the line. Instead, he and Dagi will be competing for the Grand Prix championship, which will be commemorated with its own belt. Yet Lee says it really didn’t matter to him whether his title was on the line or not.
“For me it wouldn’t have mattered,” he said. “I think this is a great opportunity to step in there and win another belt.”
At the end of the day, Lee is simply happy to have another chance to solidify himself as one of the best fighters in the world. He’s also happy to do ONE Championship a favor.
“I think of myself as a company man, so if I can help them out, I’m more than happy to,” he said.
How do you think Christian Lee will fair in this short-notice fight with the dangerous Dagi?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 9/26/2019.