For the past six years, Iuri Lapicus has dreamed of becoming a World Champion.
The 25-year-old has also been relentless in pursuit of that goal. He sought out the best gym in Italy, trained with some of the best athletes in the world, and has decimated every opponent who’s stood across from him.
Now, the undefeated Moldovan superstar is one victory away from turning his dream into a reality.
On Friday, 30 October, Lapicus will challenge ONE Lightweight World Champion Christian “The Warrior” Lee for the coveted title at the ultra-stacked ONE: INSIDE THE MATRIX blockbuster card in Singapore.
“I was waiting for this match since my debut,” Lapicus says.
“The first time I stepped into the ring, I told myself, ‘I want to be a World Champion.’ I feel my time has come, and I cannot wait to prove to the world that I am the best in my division.”
The Italy-based fighter has been an absolute terror since making his professional mixed martial arts debut in May 2014.
He earned an invitation to ONE Championship with an astonishing streak of 12 consecutive first-round finishes and then continued those destructive ways on the global stage.
First, “The Silent Assassin” dominated Thai mixed martial arts pioneer Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai en route to a third-round submission in May 2019.
Next, he tore through former ONE Featherweight World Champion Marat “Cobra” Gafurov, putting the highly revered Dagestani grappling expert to sleep in just 67 seconds this past February.
Those victories earned the Moldovan wrecking machine the top lightweight contender spot in ONE’s Athlete Rankings and a date with Lee at ONE: INSIDE THE MATRIX.
“There is no doubt he is a good fighter and well-rounded,” Lapicus says. “He is used to fighting at a different weight, so I think I will be a big problem for him at lightweight.”
Indeed, Lee originally started his career in the featherweight division, but he moved up a weight class to challenge Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki for the ONE Lightweight World Title in May 2019. And though he experienced some adversity in the first round, Lee overcame it and knocked out the Japanese legend to claim the gold.
Then in October, the Hawaii-based Singaporean outworked the division’s #2-ranked contender, Saygid “Dagi” Guseyn Arslanaliev, to earn a unanimous decision victory in the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix Championship Final and capture the tournament’s silver belt.
To date, Lee owns a 13-3 slate and holds the record for most finishes in ONE Championship history at 12.
Nevertheless, Lapicus isn’t afraid of what the lightweight king will bring to the table.
“I don’t fear anything in particular,” the Moldovan says. “He [doesn’t have] something in particular that catches your eyes. When I see his matches, I don’t see a dangerous fighter.”
Even Lee’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt expertise doesn’t frighten the challenger.
“Gafurov was a black belt, but you all saw how it ended,” Lapicus adds. “Of course, BJJ can help inside the [Circle], but when you are there, you don’t wear a kimono, so it is a totally different game. You have to take your BJJ skills to a different level.”
Lapicus has long aimed to elevate his own skill set.
Early in his career, the lifelong judoka knew he needed to improve his stand-up game, so he went to the Team Petrosyan gym in Milan, Italy, to perfect his craft under the tutelage of ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix Champion Giorgio “The Doctor” Petrosyan and his younger brother, Armen.
“Training with the best in the [world] is an unparalleled opportunity, both from the technical and mental point of view,” Lapicus says. “Giorgio and Armen are two really excellent coaches and brothers, so I could not imagine a better place to train.”
With his improved striking capabilities and his formidable grappling, Lapicus feels like his well-rounded style will be a nightmare for future opponents – including Lee.
“I feel like I have no real weak points,” the Moldovan continues. “With Giorgio and Armen, I have tremendously improved my striking, and my ground game has always been top-level.”
Lapicus will carry that confidence into his massive clash in “The Lion City,” where he’ll have a chance to prove himself as the world’s most dominant lightweight.
In a single moment, the Moldovan could keep his flawless record, maintain his perfect finishing rate, and win the richest prize in the sport.
“My dream is coming true,” he says. “It is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I will do whatever it takes to not let it slip away.”