Angela Lee

Confident Angela Lee looks to the future ahead of One Championship Singapore showdown with unbeaten Nunes

The unbeaten 20-year-old is focused on more successes after becoming the sport’s youngest champion

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 May, 2017, 12:42pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 May, 2017, 1:15pm

Angela Lee’s focus is not so much on what she has already achieved in a short but spectacular career. It’s more on what lies ahead.

“It’s been great so far but there’s still a long way to go,” says the 20-year-old. “I have so much more I want to achieve in this sport so this is just the beginning.”

It’s been 12 months now since Lee wrote herself into the annals of mixed martial arts history by defeating Japan’s Mei Yamaguchi to win the One Championship’s women’s atomweight world title. Lee was 19 at the time and that victory, after five gruelling rounds on May 5, 2016, made her the sport’s youngest-ever world champion.

The year that has passed has seen Lee’s stocks as a fighter – and as a brand – explode but there has been just the one title defence, albeit a three-round dismantling of Taiwan’s Jenny Huang in Bangkok in March that introduced the world to a redefined Lee, in terms of both physique and of style. Extra cardio work and dieting had Lee chiselled for that bout and she came out throwing big combinations before Huang succumbed to the punishment.

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Next Friday night Lee returns “home” to Singapore for the One: Dynasty of Heroes card where she’ll face the undefeated 24-year-old Brazilian Istela Nunes (6-0) and – given the footage seen and the reputation Nunes carries with her – likely the toughest test of her career so far in the co-main event.

Intrigue has surrounded Lee’s fight plan – will she go toe-to-toe with the two-time world muay thai champion or revert to the ground game schooled through her own wrestling and pankration background. When asked about what might be in store, the fighter gets straight to the point.

“We’re looking to finish this fight quickly,” says Lee. “She’s going to be using her striking. In my last fight I demonstrated more of my striking arsenal. This time you’re going to see the best of me possible. I’m going to bring my A game. This is MMA – it’s not a muay thai fight – so I am going to be looking to use all of my tools and to getting the job done.”

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The press on Nunes is that’s she doesn’t mind a decent scrap – her muay thai background and one no contest on her record for illegal soccer kicks is evidence of that – and she comes into the bout off a split decision over the battled hardened Yamaguchi (15-10-1) in August of last year. Lee says she has been watching the tapes.

“I’m prepared for the best Istela Nunes can throw at me,” says Lee. “I know she’s going to be on top of her game. So I am very excited about this fight and I am very confident going into it. I’m the champion for a reason and I am looking to show why next week.”

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Lee arrived in Singapore earlier in the week from her home in Hawaii and has been putting the finishing touches to her pre-fight prep work at the Evolve gym out of which she officially fights, under the eye of her Singapore-born father Ken Lee. That particular connection with the city means the Lee clan will be out in force come Friday night at the Singapore Indoor Stadium – but the official family reunion will have to wait until the business is taken care of first.

“I’d trained really hard coming into Bangkok and we were able to carry that over coming into this fight because they are so close together,” says Lee. “If I could I’d have all my fights close together. At the beginning of my career my fights were pretty much all back to back and in that way it was easy for me to keep my weight down and just stay in the best shape. That’s how I feel now, too. The hard work has been done so now it’s all about strategy, game plan ... and execution.”