“Unstoppable” Angela Lee has faced her fair share of adversity over recent years.
The Singaporean superstar and ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion has turned back a host of title challengers, including one particularly notable title defence where she battled past Istela Nunes despite suffering the ill effects of pneumonia.
But last year threw Lee the biggest danger to her career, when she was caught in a huge car crash.
Lee was preparing for her world title rematch with Mei Yamaguchi at ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT and was working incredibly hard in training. Too hard, as it turned out.
While driving to her gym at United MMA in Hawaii at 5am, she lost concentration for a split second. It could have cost her her life.
“I was driving to the gym extra early,” she explains.
“I was really sleepy, and was not paying attention [to the road] for a split second, and then my car rolled over a bunch of times.”
Her car was wrecked, but Lee not only survived, she also escaped any major injuries, as she walked away with just concussion and bruises. It could have been a lot worse, but it ruled her out of her title defence.
While Yamaguchi was rebooked against a different opponent that night, Lee attended the even, met her fans, and conducted media obligations. But it was all too much for her.
Emotionally shattered because of the trauma she had endured, and devastated that she couldn’t compete at the Singapore show, Lee was visibly upset.
“Everyone was like, ‘Why is it so tough? Why are you crying so much?’” she says.
“It is a lot to take in when you are not in the best state of mind.”
After that event, Lee took some much-needed time away from the spotlight to rest, recuperate and reset herself for her rearranged match-up with Yamaguchi, which takes place this Friday, 18 May at ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS in Singapore.
Lee admits getting back into her high-intensity training regimen proved difficult at first.
“It was so hard to go back into training in the beginning because I felt very weak. I could not even step on the mat without crying,” she says.
“But with the support from my family, everyone banded together. My family says that when one person is weak, everyone else has to be strong to help lift them up.”
With her family 100 percent behind her, and with her brother, Christian also set to compete for a ONE World Title on the same card, Lee had all the motivation she needed.
Both she and Christian earned their black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu in February, and she was in the arena to watch her brother defeat Kazunori Yokota at ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY in Malaysia. Watching him claim a huge win proved a turning point.
“That is what got me fired up again to step back inside the cage,” Lee says.
“That is when I felt back to normal, and things were okay again.”
Now, after a turbulent few months, Lee is ready to jump back into the spotlight – and the ONE Championship cage – once again and defend her world title against former foe Yamaguchi.
And, after all the trials and tribulations of the recent past, Lee says she’s learned to let things breathe and to give herself time to work through things. Now, having done exactly that, she’s ready for battle in the cage once again.
“I have grappled with so much doubt, negativity, and depression – it was a lot to deal with,” Lee says.
“Sometimes, you are just used to being strong all the time and having to put up this face to the world that everything is okay. But sometimes, it is not, and sometimes you just need to take that time to fix things and to heal things. You cannot rush it. It takes time, but eventually, everything will be okay.
“I will not shy away from talking about my adversities anymore because I did not let them win. I did not stay down there. I rose above it, and now I am here today, and about to fight again.”