‘Miraculous’ Angela Lee ready for her return to the cage after cheating death in November car crash
The 21-year-old will renew her rivalry with veteran Mei Yamaguchi in defending her One Championship title
Angela “Unstoppable” Lee says she has shaken the nightmares that haunted her after a car crash last November that could well have taken the MMA superstar’s life and now she’s ready to get back in the cage to defend her One Championship world atomweight title.
“I feel like everything happens for a reason,” Lee said during a conference call on Thursday. “I am extremely lucky to have survived the accident. I’ve fully recovered physically, mentally and emotionally and I am ready to get back to doing what I love most, which is competing.”
The 21-year-old Lee was driving to training at around 4.30am at home in Hawaii when she fell asleep at the wheel. Her car hit a guardrail and flipped a number of times and while, incredibly, the young star walked away with only slight concussion and some minor burns Lee admitted on social media it was “a miracle” she had escaped the crash alive.
Lee said the incident – which forced her out of a title defence against her old foe Mei “V.V” Yamaguchi set for Singapore on November 24 – had initially weighed heavily on her.
“I took a break from training completely,” said Lee. “Over Christmas and New Year I spent a lot of time with family and had a lot of support and love from them.
“I really feel like this time off has really given me a renewed outlook on everything. It’s reignited my passion for martial arts. There have been ups and downs but with my family’s help I’ve been able to overcome all these adversities.”
Four months after the scare and Lee is now locked down in fight camp as she prepares to pick up the rivalry with Yamaguchi that was put on hold by the accident, with the pair set to headline One’s “Unstoppable Dreams” card in Singapore on May 18, two years after they first met inside the cage.
“I feel 100 per cent back to normal,” said Lee. “I think mentally that was the biggest step, but I am feeling great now and there are no issues.”
Lee, who fights out of Singapore, became MMA’s youngest world champion at 19 when she took the referees’ nod over her Japanese rival after five torrid rounds in May 2016 – and she has since defended the title twice in stretching her record to 8-0.
Meanwhile, 35-year-old Yamaguchi brings her own 2-0 to the title fight – and a 17-10-1 record.
The pair’s first clash was among MMA’s fights of the year – anywhere – and the sequel promises plenty given Lee’s growing strength and experience, and her veteran opponent’s desire for revenge.
Since their last clash both fighters have been awarded black belts in BJJ – an added edge to the encounter and it will be interesting to see how that has improved Yamaguchi, considering her heavy shots were what troubled Lee last time out.
“Angela is a star,” said Yamaguchi. “It’s been two years since our last fight and we’ve both had a lot of time to learn and improve our skills. A lot of people want to see who can stop the ‘Unstoppable’ Lee and I believe I’m going to be the one.”
Lee said she was ready for whatever is thrown at her, and quite capable of a few surprises of her own given the fact she has sent those cage-side (and watching at home) to their MMA manuals when laying down fight-winning moves that have included both a twister and the rare sighting of an illusive anaconda choke.
Lee has been working with her father and coach Ken, former BJJ world champion (and her fiancé) Bruno Pucci, and brother Christian, the 19-year-old who threw what he called a “Terminator Guillotine” into the mix to finish off Japan’s Kazunori Yokota last weekend for a victory that furthered his growing reputation and took his record to 8-1.
“I think one of the main reasons that sets us apart from the other fighters is that we are constantly evolving our game,” said Lee.
“We tighten up everything from the striking to the transitions to the ground game, the submissions. I think you’re going to see a completely different fighter than the girl who stepped into the cage back in 2016.”