Angela Lee

Bravo! Angela Lee gets nod of approval from combat sport legend

Famed jiu-jitsu master Eddie Bravo keeps watch on rise of Asia’s biggest MMA star

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 May, 2017, 8:58pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 May, 2017, 10:40pm

Eddie Bravo has guided a generation of the world’s top mixed martial artists through the finer points of jiu-jitsu -as they have added its skills to their arsenal and the America combat sport legend revealed on Wednesday he has kept an eye on the rise of Angela Lee, the biggest star MMA has in Asia.

“Yeah I’ve been watching her – everyone has,” said Bravo.

Like the world of MMA itself, Bravo will get to check in on Lee’s progress come Friday night when the unbeaten 20-year-old sensation puts her One Championship atomweight world title on the line against Brazilian Istela Nunes as the co-headline bout of the One: Dynasty of Heroes card.

Bravo will be among an expected sellout crowd of 12,000 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, having come to town also to host jiu-jitsu “super camp” at Singapore’s Evolve MMA gym – out of which Lee fights – as well as catch a quick breath from his regular spot as the agent provocateur on the wildly popular combat sport-tinged podcast The Joe Rogan Experience.

The 47-year-old black belt – founder of the 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu global gym chain – is never short of an opinion, as fans of that podcast can attest, and he revealed Lee had first captured his attention when using a “twister” move to end her bout against Natalie Gonzales Hills back in 2015, the third win of Lee’s seven so far.

It was a move that Bravo famously mastered during his own fighting career, and one that he has since taught the likes of famed MMA fighter and one-time UFC world bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.

“She pulled off that twister in MMA and I ran into her in Vegas last year,” said Bravo. “I congratulated her and then showed her a couple of things on the mat, little tweaks that maybe she could add to her game. I asked ask her the day before yesterday if she was still playing that game and she said it was her favourite move.”

There’s been much debate in MMA circles going into Friday’s bout – Lee’s second title defence – about just how the fighter will match up against the 24-year-old Nunes, unbeaten also in MMA with a 5-0 record and a two-time world muay Thai champion.

That twister move was an indication of Lee’s own background in grappling – as a US amateur pankration champion and standout high school wrestler – but last time out against Taiwan’s Jenny Huang she revealed a more rounded fight plan, standing toe-to-toe for much of the early exchanges before throwing her opponent to the mat, and then pounding out the victory.

Wednesday saw the champion retreat away from the spotlight that has shone on her since this week, a “pre-fight bubble” her handlers said gave her a chance to refocus after a stream of interviews with an international media that has woken up to Lee’s story as the sport’s youngest ever world champion.

Before the rest, Lee told the Post she had continued in preparations for this fight to work on her overall skills – so just how she rolls out her attack is at this stage anyone’s guess.

“[Nunes] is going to be using her striking,” said Lee. “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 looking to using all of my tools and to getting the job done.”

This week Bravo has been in charge of a posse of more than 50 athletes at his jiu-jitsu camp, among them the unbeaten Ilima-lei Macfarlane (6-0), the star of the California-based Bellator MMA organisation’s female roster.

Increasingly, MMA fighters are like Lee and Macfarlane expanding their skills in all the disciplines needed in the sport – from grappling to striking and all parts in between – and Bravo said this trend was a “natural progression.”

“At first it was all this style, or this style but after a couple of generations it understandable that kids growing up are learning more and more,” he said. “But there’s nothing wrong with dedicating your life to one discipline because when it comes down to it that one discipline you have dedicated your life to, that’s the one that’s going to make all the difference [in MMA].”