‘We’re a team, not rivals’ – sibling bond pushes Christian Lee to match sister Angela Lee’s success
Brother of One Championship atomweight titleholder shares her drive to be the best as he returns to the cage at Kings of Destiny card in Manila
The spotlight was on Angela Lee as she prepared to defend her ONE Championship atomweight world title back in March but it was impossible not to notice the young man who followed her into the cage.
Christian Lee was there in support but was bouncing on his heels and looking for all the world like it was him who was about to enter the fray.
Those sat beside the cage could hear the 18-year-old cheering his sister on from his corner, and passing on advice with father Ken in between rounds.
It seemed like he was wearing every blow, too, and when Angela Lee battered Jenny Huang into submission and her armed was raised in victory, Christian rushed to her side to share the glory.
“We’re always there for each other and to watch her win was a thrill for all of us,” says Lee.
Now it’s his turn.
Out of the cage since his loss to Australian Martin Nguyen at the ONE Championship card in Macau last August, Lee will return to battle as part of ONE’s Kings of Destiny card in Manila on April 21, facing China’s Wan Jian Ping in a featherweight bout this young man says can’t come soon enough.
“Fighting is what I love to do,” Lee says. “When I finished high school I knew straight away what my future would be – and here I am as a professional mixed martial artist.
“That loss was hard to take and there are a hundred things that looking back now I would have done differently, but that’s all in the past now and I am looking to the future. And it all starts next week in Manila.”
Before that one blip on his record Lee had gone 5 and 0 – and had fought all those bouts across a six month-period, impressing fans and those in the know with and all round arsenal developed as his sister’s during a childhood immersed in MMA.
Back home in Hawaii and under the eye of Ken and mother Jewelz, the Lees have virtually lived in the gym, training themselves and passing on their knowledge to others as they have grown.
“We have a great life and once I started fighting I just took every fight that was offered to me,” said Lee. “It was pretty intense but I was winning and not getting hurt so I just wanted to keep fighting. The break has been good for me though as I have continued to develop my all round skills.”
As Angela Lee’s star has continued to rise over the past year – beginning with her title win last May, a victory that made her at 19 the youngest world champion in the sport’s history – Christian has been an almost constant presence at her side and the pair have talked openly about a shared dream of a time in the future when they both hold titles.
The time away from the cage looks to have been well-spent, judging by the extra muscle the teenager was carrying when he appeared in Bangkok for his sister’s first title defence.
“We work hard all the time,” he says. “We are very close and there’s no rivalry between us. We’re a team and we constantly push each other to be the best fighters we can possibly be.”
Not much is known and the 32-year-old Wan (2-1), a late replacement after Keanu Subba had been originally lined up only to fall to injury during training this past week. It might have meant a change in tactics for Lee but he remains confident the result will be the same regardless.
When the news came that he’d be facing Wan, he made his intentions clear on Twitter: “New Opponent. Same Gameplan. Kill” was the posting.
“You have to be confident in this sport and I know what I can do there in the cage,” says Lee. “I have been preparing myself to fight for my whole life. I had been watching the tapes of Subba but it doesn’t really matter who I fight the plan is the same. I just have to go in there and beat the hell out of them.”
Another victory will throw Lee into the mix in what is a star-studded featherweight division currently ruled by Russian Marat Gafurov (15-0) but a possible challenge might be a ways off in the distance.
“Watching Angela fight and training with her has been great but it has also been hard sometimes not knowing when my turn will come,” he says. “I love all the training and the work we put in but there is nothing like getting into the cage and fighting. I seriously can’t wait. From here on in I just have to keep my body fresh, and my mind sharp. I am ready to take this next step.”