Angela Lee

Singapore’s MMA bombshell Angela Lee determined to avoid Ronda Rousey’s fate as she gets ready for first title defence

Eight months after becoming the youngest MMA world champion in history, the Singapore-based fighter is itching to get back in the cage

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2017, 12:47pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 May, 2017, 4:17pm

Angela Lee has been living the dream in the eight months since she became the youngest world champion in the history of mixed martial arts.

But the 20-year-old says she knows full well how quickly her sport can bring a fighter crashing back down to reality – Lee was among the millions around the world who watched on as Ronda Rousey, the one-time queen of MMA, was battered senseless, and maybe even out of the game, in her 48-second loss to Amanda Nunes at UFC 207 back in December.

“Yeah I watched and as brutal as it is, that’s the fight game,” Lee said on Tuesday. “And that’s how things go down. The sport is full of ups and downs, highs and lows.

“For me it’s just incredibly important to just surround yourself with people that are going to be honest with you and you have to be honest with yourself.

“I think the most important thing is to just keep learning and keep improving. That’s the whole thing about martial arts – to just keep improving yourself as a person.”

Taking in as many fights from the spectator seats when she’s not under the spotlight herself is all part of the game, said Lee.

“As a normal fan of course I am watching all the fights,” she said. “It’s something that I love to do. I watch each time and I analyse each time to help me with my training as well. I like to break down the fights with my dad and my brother and learn from [other fighter’s] experiences.”


A video posted by Angela Lee (@angelaleemma) on Jan 10, 2017 at 2:50pm PST

Lee’s own dose of reality is now looming large on the horizon – she’s set to make the first defence of her One Championship world atomweight title against Taiwan’s Jenny Huang in Bangkok on March 11 – and the young star said it would be more than welcome when it does return to her life.

“It’s been a little while out of the cage, something I’m not quite used to,” Lee said during a conference call as she begins to pump up the promotion for her return to battle.

“Since the title fight I’ve just been training hard improving all areas, from the striking to the take downs to the grappling. For me as the champion it is really important how I look at things – I don’t want to become complacent, I want to stay hungry and continue learning and striving to just improve in martial arts. I can’t wait to get back into the cage.”

She’s the One: Angela Lee turning heads and empowering women in MMA

The Canadian-born Lee, who lives in Hawaii but fights out of the Evolve MMA gym in Singapore, was still 19 when she claimed the atomweight crown with a unanimous decision over Japan’s Mei Yamaguchi in a bout last May that turned into a war of attrition.

Watch: Angela Lee in action against Lena Tkhorevska

Lee at times looked done and dusted but fought her way out of trouble, and overwhelmed the 33-year-old Yamaguchi in what proved to be one of the best women’s fight of the year – anywhere. Little wonder they call her Unstoppable.

“Going the full five five-minute championship rounds was a first for me,” said Lee. “It didn’t take so much out of me physically, more mentally and emotionally. There was a lot of pressure going into that fight and the training was rigorous. So I really appreciated the time off but I’m really excited to get back.”

That took Lee’s record to 6-0, and it made her a superstar at the same time, the poster girl for the sport in Asia as it rapidly spreads its influence across the region.

A stream of commercial endorsements and celebrity fight night appearances have followed but Lee said she had remained focused on her training and on continuing to hone her craft throughout the tumult.

Angela Lee to defend ONE Championship title against Taiwan’s Jenny Huang in Thailand

The 26-year-old Huang will be the first fighter from Taiwan to fight for a world MMA title – and will arrive with an unbeaten record of her own at 5-0 and fresh from victory by submission over the Philippines’ April Osenio in December.

Lee vowed she would not fall in to the trap of taking her less-heralded opponent lightly.

“Obviously any champion’s first title defence is crucial,” said Lee. “I’m really looking to make a statement with this fight. Jenny has had really great fights and she’s earned her shot at the title. I’m taking her very seriously. But I think that this is my time to show the world who I am as a fighter.”