But he’s confident that he’ll walk out of the match as the new king of the division.
“I’m used to fighting as an underdog, my whole career is built on this,” Nastyukhin told ONEFC.com, referring to the match that airs on One Sports this Thursday morning.
“When there’s a big challenge in front of me — when there’s a champion in front of me or someone with better ratings — it actually motivates me more and lights a fire under me.”
The Russian knows that he’ll have a tough time against the Singaporean-American in this clash, especially since Lee has upped his game over the past few years.
Lee has vastly improved his striking while continuing to grow as a grappler to make him one of the most dangerous men in the division.
“He’s a very young and explosive opponent. He’s very ambitious. I have a lot of respect for him,” Nastyukhin said.
“He’s a universal athlete. His unpredictability and speed in striking can be dangerous. He can be dangerous in wrestling and he has good control [on the ground], so he can be dangerous in all aspects, basically. The same as me.
“That’s why we specifically train to face him. We have studied him. We’re going through his work and doing everything to minimize this risk.”
Nastyukhin has had his fair share of moments in the Circle as well, scoring impressive first-round KO wins over Eduard “Landslide” Folayang and Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez.
He has also suffered his share of losses and injuries, as he was scheduled to compete in the semifinals of the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix but had to pull out due to an injury.
Now there’s only one thing he has not experienced in this organization – coronation. However, he hopes that it comes this Thursday.
“There have been many ups and downs, many surgeries, big fights, and big victories, and now I’m more worthy than anybody else to fight for this belt,” Nastyukhin said.
“My time has come to fight for the belt and it gives me even more motivation and confidence. With God’s will, I’ll be able to win it.
“Christian Lee is still very young. His time will come in the future. For now, he should give way to me.”
Watch the previously recorded “ONE on TNT II” on ONE Sports or ONE Sports+ at 8:30 a.m. Philippine Standard Time (PHT) on Thursday, April 15.
Both ONE Sports and ONE Sports+ will have an encore showing at 8:30 p.m. PHT on Friday, April 16.
Also, there will be an encore showing on TV5 at 12 a.m. PHT on Sunday, April 18.
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