ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion “Unstoppable” Angela Lee wants to continue to prove her nickname is well-deserved.
The undefeated Singapore representative returns home to put her world title on the line, in an eagerly-awaited rematch with Japan’s Mei “V.V.” Yamaguchi at ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS on Friday, 18 May.
Chatting during an exclusive interview with ONE Championship, Lee looks back on one of the toughest periods of her career, as she looks to come back from a terrifying car accident, and continue her run as an undefeated world champion inside the ONE cage.
“I had a match scheduled for November [at ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT],” she began.
“Bruno [Pucci] just proposed to me in September, him and I came to Hawaii in October to get my family’s blessing for the marriage, and everything was going great.
“Then in early November, I was driving to the gym extra early. I was really sleepy, and was not paying attention for a split second, and then my car rolled over a bunch of times. That was it.
“Luckily, there weren’t any physical injuries — just a couple of bruises. But it took a little while to get over, because I was pretty shaken up about it.”
Understandably, Lee had to take an extended break from training while she recovered. She still attended ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT, but was an emotional spectator, rather than the main event star.
“The next few weeks after [the accident] were probably the hardest, because I still flew down to Singapore for my media obligations, and attended the ONE Championship event there. It was really emotional,” she explained.
“Everyone was like: “Why is it so tough? Why are you crying so much?” It is a lot to take in when you are not in the best state of mind. But I got through that event, went home for the holidays, spent New Year’s with Bruno, laid low, and took a break from training completely.
“Then when I flew back to Hawaii, I stepped on the mats. I just started training again for fun — with no match scheduled, no match in mind, and no pressure like that. I started to get back to normal in February, and then I went to support my brother Christian in his match (against Kazunori Yokota in KL).
“That is what got me fired up again, to step back inside the cage. That is when I felt back to normal, and things were OK again.”
While nobody would have chosen to have been put on the shelf in the manner that Lee had to deal with, the world champion has tried to take a philosophical view, and find positives to take from what was a harrowing ordeal.
“It was hard because for the past few years it has been “go-go-go” from competing to press conferences to the media, and all these obligations. It was really crazy. So this time off has been, I guess, necessary. It has given me a renewed outlook. I definitely have that fire again, and I am looking forward to competing.
“This forced break was really good just to get back on track, and to have this fresh new start. I think it will allow me to have a better straight run in my career.”
During her enforced hiatus, much has changed in ONE Championship, most notably the addition of a new women’s world title, with China’s Xiong Jing Nan becoming the inaugural ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion with her win over Tiffany Teo earlier this year.
Lee says the challenge of becoming a two-weight world champion certainly appeals, and says that it won’t be long until she turns her attention to Xiong and the ONE Strawweight Title.
“It has always been a goal of mine since I entered the organization, and became the first female champion,” she admitted.
“I never look too far ahead, but I am always planning for the future, and I have that in mind.
“Naturally, I feel more comfortable in the women’s strawweight division. It is comfortable for my body type. It is hard work for me to get down to atomweight, but that is how bad I want it, and that is where I am at right now. I am the champion, and that is my weight division.
“But yeah, moving forward, definitely, I have my eyes set on that ONE Women’s Strawweight World Title.
“[Xiong] is an explosive athlete. Very scrappy. I like that. I think it is great to have another female world champion in the organisation, and I think it would be a great match-up [for me].”
But before any serious thoughts turn to the strawweight division, Lee has the considerable challenge of Yamaguchi to deal with. The Japanese veteran is the only woman to take Lee to the scorecards, and will be doubly determined to ensure the same fate doesn’t befall her in the rematch.
Lee knows she’s in for a tough test once again, and is looking forward to renewing acquaintances with her old rival in the cage on 18 May.
“I am really excited,” she said.
“First of all, we faced each other two years back, so I have an idea of what her style is. I know what she has been working on. Since our first match, I had two really great title defences.
“I got to show how my game is evolving, and I have been working to tighten everything up and sharpen my skills everywhere. I feel really confident going into this match. I think it will go according to the game plan, and I cannot wait to be back.”