She wasn’t fighting but Angela Lee in the spotlight as MMA fans grapple to catch a glimpse of her
Poster-girl of MMA, the youngest-ever world champion, is busy signing autographs, taking part in a grappling contest and helping younger brother, Christian, prepare for his fight in One Championship in Macau
Angela Lee never entered the cage on Saturday night but the lion’s share of attention was still focused on the sport of mixed martial arts’ youngest-ever world champion.
Before, during and – it can safely be predicted – long after the event, both fans and fellow fighters were looking to grab every chance they could to get near the 20-year-old poster girl for mixed martial arts in Asia.
“To be honest, I’m still not used to all the attention,” said Lee. “I’m still finding it hard to see me the way other people see me now – as a world champion. I’m not sure I’ll ever really get used to it but I’m not complaining. It’s great fun.”
Lee began the day by competing in a special grappling event, then helped her 18-year-old brother Christian go through his pre-fight warm-up routines before his bout with Martin Nguyen. Then she was signing autographs, posing for selfies – and taking up a cage-side position to watch all the action as it unfolded, alongside her father and coach Ken.
A little harder to take was not being able to climb into the cage herself – and Lee hasn’t since she shook up the martial arts world by storming back to beat the vastly more experienced Japanese fighter Mei Yamaguchi to claim the One Championships’s atomweight title in Singapore back in May.
Plans for her first title defence are still being finalised but the bout can’t come soon enough for Lee who admitted the adrenaline had been pumping as the clock counted down to her brother’s bout – as it had when she saw Yamaguchi enter the cage for her bout last night against Brazil’s Istela Nunes.
WATCH: Angela Lee v Michele Nicolini grapple in Macau
“To be honest it’s so tough for me to watch,” said Lee. “When Christian is warming up I just get really pumped up as well and I just want to go in there and fight. I keep warming up on the sidelines myself. Every time there’s a fight night there’s just this feeling in the air that gives me the jitters. It’s always just so exiting and it gets my blood racing.”
Lee had at least been able to expend some considerable amount of energy in the afternoon’s grappling event – a skill she later admitted wasn’t the strongest part of her martial arts arsenal. That she had to her face former world jiu-jitsu champion Michelle Nicolini meant the odds were stacked against her but Lee said she emerged a little sore – with a twist to her left ankle – but much the wiser for the experience.
“I’m not a jiu-jitsu girl but going up against Michelle gave me a lot of experience,” said Lee. “I think when you are learning you shouldn’t sometimes think of these things as a loss and just concentrate on the positives and the fact that you are getting another experience that will make you a better fighter.”
One Championship’s first event in Macau played out in front of a pretty much packed out Cotai Arena – the give-away glowing thunder sticks adding an oddly familiar air to a venue more famous for its Canto-pop concerts, were glowing neon is ubiquitous
Lee said she was thrilled to be involved – even if it was from the sidelines.
“Coming here to Macau, another new city, and meeting all these new fans and watching these fights is just another step on the journey for us,” she said. “It’s another little piece of history for all of us.”