Angela Lee

The chains come off as Angela Lee can’t wait to get back into the cage

ONE Championship atomweight world champion says the time has come to display her skills again against tough Taiwanese Jenny Huang, focused on ‘everything’ for Saturday night’s showdown

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2017, 8:25pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 March, 2017, 12:09pm

Patience can be a tough prospect when you’re young and you know the world is out there just waiting for you.

And learning to be patient has been about the only problem Angela Lee has faced in the almost 12 months since she captured the ONE Championship’s atomweight world title.

Well, the wait is almost over.

“It’s been a while since I fought in the cage,” the 20-year-old said on Wednesday. “I found out I’d be defending my title in January so I’ve had three months to prepare for this. In the beginning it took a while to get the gears shifted again but once I started my fight camp, all that training and strict dieting made the weight come off really easily. I’ve been telling everyone this is the best I’ve ever felt coming into a fight.”

Lee has arrived in Bangkok ready for her first title defence on Saturday, lining up as the headliner against Taiwan’s Jenny Huang on the ONE: Warrior Kingdom card at the Impact Arena.

“A lot of fighters lose their edge when they start to think that it’s easy being champion,” said Lee. “Keeping the belt is a lot harder than winning it the first time around. I won’t take any opponent for granted, especially not someone as talented as Jenny Huang. I still have much to do in the sport of mixed martial arts and I’m going to kick off the next chapter of my career against one of the top contenders.”

Angela Lee ready for date with destiny as MMA’s youngest-ever world champion eyes ONE Championship title defence

Lee’s first official duty in the Thai capital was an appearance at the Good Shepherd Sisters women’s shelter, where the fighter marked International Women’s Day. Since becoming the youngest world champion in the history of mixed martial arts – at 19, with a win over Japan’s Mei Yamaguchi last May – Lee has assumed role model status both in the sport, and for aspiring female athletes in general

“It’s a huge honour for me,” Lee said of her role as champion.

“It’s amazing that today’s International Women’s Day and on Saturday I’ll be headlining the card in Bangkok in a country where women’s fights once weren’t really approved of. I’m proud about how far women’s MMA has come. You hear less about ‘How does it feel being a woman in a male dominated sport’ and that’s how it should be – always.”

Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm and Miesha Tate the game changers as Asia-bound UFC puts women at the forefront

Lee broke camp at the weekend back home in Hawaii pleased by how well a new regime of extra cardio work has helped her into fighting shape, as her Instagram account can attest. What fans (and her opponent) will be waiting to see is how she might have developed her fighting style while putting in the hours on the mat, under the guidance of her father Ken.

A 6-0 record – and that world title – stand as proof Lee has done pretty well for herself so far but she has admitted in her time out of the cage that her game remains a work in progress, given her age.

That victory over Yamaguchi, across five intense rounds in one of the fights of 2016, seemed to have been by its end rendered down to that great sport cliché of “who wanted it more.”

The intrigue for Saturday is built around the fact that the 26-year-old Huang (5-0 in MMA herself) looks both on paper and via tape to have been grounded in a similar skill set to Lee, so we may just fact the same situation.

How burgeoning MMA superstar Angela Lee handles success by staying in the moment

Hence, Lee said, fight camp focused on “everything.”

“I’m coming into this bout against Jenny hungry and determined,” said Lee. “If it does get to the ground I am sure the fans will like to see how our styles match up. I think our styles are pretty different. If it gets there we’ll see what happens.”