SINGAPORE – A fired-up Christian Lee believes his upcoming One Championship lightweight (up to 77kg) title fight will be the perfect platform to showcase his abilities to a wider audience.

The bout against Russian Timofey Nastyukhin headlines One’s on TNT II event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Thursday (April 15) morning and will be broadcast “live” on prime time in North America on cable network TNT.

It is part of a series of live shows this month organised by One to break into the US market, a move that Lee hailed as “groundbreaking”.

The 22-year-old mixed martial arts (MMA) exponent, whose father is Singaporean and mother is South Korean, fights under the Singapore flag in One. He said: “I live in the US, my home is Hawaii, so I’m very excited for my friends and family back home to be able to turn the TV on at prime time and watch me fight on TNT.”

He and his sister Angela, 24, One’s atomweight world champion, are among One’s most touted stars, though some critics have suggested their successes are due to preferential treatment from the Singapore-based MMA organisation.

Faced with such scepticism, Lee is eager to prove he has reached the summit on merit.

After all, he claimed the title in May 2019 after beating Japanese grappling legend Shinya Aoki. Five months later, Lee stepped in as a replacement in One’s lightweight grand prix final and defeated Saygid Arslanaliev of Turkey, who had been on a tear with three straight knockout wins prior.

And in October last year, Lee defended his title with an impressive technical knockout win over Iuri Lapicus of Moldova, who had entered the fight undefeated, having knocked out or submitted all 13 of his previous opponents.

Nastyukhin, 31, poses another tough challenge. He gained notoriety for making short work of former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Bellator world champion Eddie Alvarez, knocking out the American in his One debut in March 2019, punching him so hard that his left eyelids split in half.

One founder and chief executive Chatri Sityodtong predicted the fight between Lee and Nastyukhin will be a “crazy war”.

While Lee admits Nastyukhin is a “serious threat”, he is confident of exploiting his rival’s weaknesses and emerging from the cage with the belt still around his waist.

American website MMA Fighting had reported that the One on TNT 1 event last Thursday, which featured former UFC stars Alvarez and Demetrious Johnson, averaged 196,000 viewers over the course of the two-hour broadcast.

One’s events are also broadcast live on their mobile app, and YouTube channel.

“It doesn’t matter who’s watching, or how many people,” Lee said.

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“When I get into the cage and the door locks, the only thing I’m focused on is taking out the opponent in front of me.

“I’m very honoured to be fighting on TNT and to have the US crowd watching, but there’s no added pressure.”

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