Although she may not have the name recognition of the UFC and WWE’s Ronda Rousey or the hugely inspiring Paige ZanVant, Angela Lee is one of mixed martial arts’ (MMA) top female fighters. As well as being an amateur champion at national and international level, the Canadian-American – who was born in Vancouver but grew up and continues to live in Hawaii – holds the distinction of being MMA’s youngest-ever professional champion, an accolade she gained when she defeated Mei Yamaguchi at the age of 19 to claim One Championship’s Atomweight Women's Title. Conor McGregor’s gorilla chest – and other UFC fighters’ tattoos explained Since then Lee’s career has had its ups and downs, including her first defeat, but she remains One’s Atomweight Women’s champion. She talks to us about growing up in Hawaii, her love for martial arts when a young girl, her rivalry with Chinese fighter Xiong Jingnan, and what’s next in store for the woman nicknamed “Unstoppable”. You started martial arts training when you were just six. What was it like at such a young age? It had so many benefits, even if I didn’t realise it at the time. Six years old was when I started competing, but I had been training even before then. When I was really young I would follow my parents into work, which was the gym, and I’d be there watching them teach, watching the other students and learning a lot. When did you become aware of MMA as a style of fighting? When I was going through school. It was kind of embarrassing, as when I was growing up, MMA wasn’t too popular. Other kids would ask “what sports do you play” and I’d say MMA and they’d ask “what is that?”. It was probably around the time I got to high school that UFC and the women’s division started to come alive and that’s when I was inspired. That’s when I really started thinking of it as something I’d like to do in the future. Who were the women back then that you looked up to and inspired you? I had the opportunity when I was still in high school to go to a couple of UFC events, and one of the events I went to I remember watching Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate. Those two were probably the prime women I saw in the women’s MMA scene. I think everyone was excited to see female fighters, with such talent, being displayed on such a big stage. And watching females fight is a completely different thing [from watching men], it’s beautiful, it’s exciting, and I just wanted to get into that. View this post on Instagram BTS: Beachbody Gear Shoot pt. 3 A post shared by Angela Lee Pucci (@angelaleemma) on Nov 19, 2019 at 2:01am PST At what point did you think you could make a career out of MMA? Probably around the time of my senior year in high school. I was finishing up wrestling season, and I had already competed nationally in Las Vegas [winning her division at the USA amateur Pankration national championships] and had competed at a world level in Greece. After I graduated I was training for my amateur MMA debut because you have to be 18 in Hawaii to fight. Right after my 18th birthday I got my first scheduled fight and I had three amateur fights in Hawaii before I signed for One. 5 things to know about MMA star Jessica Andrade You went to college before deciding to go full-time with MMA; what led you to that decision? While I was preparing for my amateur MMA fights I was studying at the same time. I chose to go to college because that’s the plan I had for myself. I wanted to go to school and see if I could both study and do MMA. But after two semesters I talked to my parents and said I wanted to see where this [MMA] goes, and I think that if you guys support me with this and I take a break from the studies then I can put my full effort into MMA and I can make something of this. And were your parents supportive of this decision? They were 100 per cent supportive. I think they know that when I put my mind to something, I chase after it 100 per cent. Having their full support, they said “If you’re going to be in, you’ve got to be in all the way”. That’s how I am anyway. You made your professional debut at 18; was there any difference from your amateur debut? Still so much excitement. I was so excited to travel to Singapore, which I had travelled to many times before – my dad was born there and we have many relatives there still – but it was the craziest thing to fly there, where our family is, and compete in front of over 10,000 people. That was insane. I was so excited, I didn’t really think about the nerves or pressure. After my debut with One everything started to change. watching females fight is a completely different thing [from watching men], it’s beautiful, it’s exciting, and I just wanted to get into that Was there any particular reason you chose to fight in One Championship rather than another promotion? I get asked this a lot, and I think that everything happens for a reason. “Living in Hawaii, Las Vegas and the UFC are just a six-hour flight away. Why did you choose to fight in Asia?” But at the time I was 18 and UFC had just opened their strawweight division. I was so excited by that, but you had to be 21 to compete and I was 18. I wanted to get into that but it didn’t happen. I think that was a sign. View this post on Instagram Let's make it happen @onechampionship I want that Strawweight Belt I love this highlight that ONE just released from my last fight in Tokyo, Japan Oct. 13, 2019 Everything looks better in slo-mo ▶️⏮️ Especially that suplex A post shared by Angela Lee Pucci (@angelaleemma) on Jun 22, 2020 at 6:35pm PDT You suffered your first defeat to Chinese fighter Xiong Jingnan last year – how tough was that mentally? Do you still beat yourself up about it? My first loss … It was heartbreaking. It was my first loss in my career, amateur or pro. It was a huge thing. I was trying to chase after the strawweight belt and become a two division champ. So much was on the line and there was so much pressure. Not being able to execute my game plan in the fight … I could make excuses but I’m not going to do that. It was disheartening, and I really needed to get my mind set right after that because there was so much doubt. I really doubted myself, my skills, my abilities. I was like, “I don’t know if I can do this.” It took some time to get my head straight. 6 things about Demetrious Johnson – MMA champion, father and nice guy What helped you pull through that and get your confidence back? There was a lot of reflecting. Afterwards I told my dad – who’s my coach and manager – that I wanted another fight. I want to shake this off and get back on track. And that’s when my fight with [Michelle] Nicolini was scheduled. And that fight … Urgh, it didn’t go my way. It was a good fight but I feel like I definitely could have done more, but the decision didn’t go in my favour. I was so frustrated. After that fight I was feeling really down about myself. The one thing that helped me to change my mentality and help me see things in a bright perspective is I got the opportunity to take a small group of kids from Hawaii and take them to Croatia and Rome for the Pangration tournament. Seeing the joy and excitement they had competing, and coaching them to victory, seeing them on the podium, brought me so much joy. I really needed that. It provided a whole new perspective and appreciation for training in martial arts. It must have worked since you avenged your loss to Xiong. Is that the end of your rivalry? Maybe yes, maybe no. My goal is still to chase after that strawweight belt. I’ve defended my atomweight belt four times now and I really feel like I can take the strawweight division. But everything is up in the air with the pandemic, so who knows what’s in store. How supportive has One Championship been for women’s fighting? They’ve been the most supportive! I can’t thank them enough for the opportunities they’ve given me. I’ve headlined multiple cards and been in the main events for many of them. They really put a lot of marketing and support behind their female fighters and champions. They’re really paving the way and are doing great things. They started it all. Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .