‘A lot of UFC fighters like to talk a lot’: One Championship queen Angela Lee comes out swinging ahead of Mei Yamaguchi renewal
Lee looking to reassert her dominance against Japanese, as Ben Askren looks to bow out with win over MMA legend
Just watch me world.
That was the message from Angela “Unstoppable” Lee this week as the queen of mixed martial arts in Asia prepares to return to the cage in November for what is being billed as the biggest promotion the sport has ever seen in the region.
“I’m young and I’m healthy and I’m improving,” declared the unbeaten 21-year-old. “There’s no one that’s going to stop me.”
There had been some talk from the rival North American-based Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) that Lee might not cut it in fights outside Asia – most notably from former UFC senior vice-president of international and content Joe Carr and UFC strawweight Michelle Waterson – but the youngster was having none of it on Thursday.
Watch: Angela Lee defeats Mei Yamaguchi in their last fight
“To be honest it doesn’t bother me too much because I have complete confidence in myself and knowing what I’m capable of as a fighter,” said Lee. “I think a lot of the UFC fighters like to talk a lot, but if you were to put us inside the cage it would be a different story.”
One Championship will cap a breakthrough year for the organisation with its Immortal Pursuit card at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on November 24.
Co-headlining the night will be Lee in a much-anticipated rematch with Japanese veteran Mei “V.V.” Yamaguchi (16-10-1) alongside a final bout for American welterweight champion Ben “Funky” Askren (17-0), who will face off against Japan’s former lightweight champion and fellow all-round combat sport legend Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki (39-7) before he bows out of the sport.
It has been lost on no one that the date of the event comes a day before the Las Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) makes its long-awaited debut in mainland China with a card in Shanghai but One’s chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong – who joined the four fighters in a conference call – claimed the dates were merely “coincidence”.
— Angela Lee (@angelaleemma) September 4, 2017
“We don’t build our business around what our competitors are doing,” he said.
Regardless of any rivalries, the trump card One have in their pack is the wildly popular Lee, who lives in Hawaii but fights out of the Evolve MMA gym in Singapore, where her father was born.
Lee will be defending her crown for the third time this year and will be up against the 34-year-old Yamaguchi, the only fighter to so far have really tested her resolve.
Lee created history as the MMA’s youngest ever world champion when she took a unanimous decision over Yamaguchi in their title bout in Singapore in May last year. But she had to pick herself off the canvas – literally – a number of times throughout a five-round slugfest that was for many the fight of the year, globally, on the female side of the sport.
But that was then and this is now, said Lee, who has grown in stature – and marketability – each time she has stepped into the cage.
“This is a great opportunity for me to do it right,” said Lee. “The last fight, I had never experienced that before and it was the biggest fight of my life. This time I am looking to step into the cage with complete confidence. This time it won’t go to a decision. I’m looking to showcase my new skills. My training has been better than ever. ”
Yamaguchi was last seen in action in June, brushing aside Taiwan’s Jenny Huang (5-2).
“The last match was my first time with One and I wasn’t really used to the environment.
Now I am used to it and this time I am really prepared, 100 per cent,” said Yamaguchi.
Sharing the spotlight on the big night will be the 33-year-old Askren, who remains unbeaten and has had looked pretty much unbeatable, too, since turning his attention to MMA in 2009 after a wrestling career that took in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and two NCAA titles. “He’s the best middleweight in MMA,” said Sityodtong.
The One boss left the door open to possible match-up between Askren and a fighter from the UFC at some stage, although the American has previously said he wouldn’t fight current UFC middleweight champ Tyron Woodley due to the fact that he is a close friend.
That remains a prospect to watch but in the meantime a cushy office job with One beckons for the fighter who has quite simply run out of opponents. He conquered the Bellator promotion back home, before dominating anyone thrown at him out this way.
In the 34-year-old Aoki, he’ll face one of the MMA’s great grapplers and a fighter who has matched it with the best over a 14-year career that has included titles with One, along with Japan’s Dream and Shooto promotions. It’ll be a fitting way to walk away, said Askren.
“He’s the biggest name [I’ve faced],” said Askren. “I want to finish my MMA career right.”