Angela Seung Ju Lee is the Canadian-American MMA athlete of Singaporean, Chinese language, and Korean heritage who turned the youngest particular person ever to win a combined martial arts world title at age 19. Having dominated in pankration earlier than shifting into skilled MMA, the place she is the ONE Women’s Atomweight world champion, Lee took a short lived break from competitors, in order that she might begin a household.
Now, at age 26, Lee is again in motion, feeling the very best she’s ever felt since successful her first title seven years in the past. Lee spoke to M&F from her Hawaii house to debate her origins in martial arts, approaches to well being and health, and the way being a mom has introduced larger enlightenment.
‘Unstoppable’ is an apt title for a warrior that has been competing in martial arts from the age of 6, however the place did the moniker come from? “In highschool, being a teen, on Fb and Tumblr, I used to be all the time inspirational quotes and new wallpapers,” says Lee. “I chanced on this image, it was all black and had the daring phrase ‘unstoppable’ and it caught my eye.” Lee talked together with her mentor and father, Ken and the 2 agreed that ‘Unstoppable’ can be the right nickname for a fighter, and it caught. She gained her first three novice MMA bouts in Hawaii after she turned 18, balancing her mat work together with her homework, quickly discovering that she was extra taken with MMA than math. Lee simply wished to journey, meet different fighters, and chase her desires.
Angela Lee Has an Unstoppable Bond With Her Household
Dad and mom, Ken and Jewelz Lee, who had been martial arts rivals and coaches themselves, had first handed their information on to Angela and her different siblings (younger brother Chris additionally now competes in ONE Championship) as a means of self-defense, however it was clear that the abilities had been within the bloodline. “Coaching was non-negotiable,” says Lee, who recollects that rising up in a household of martial artists meant that she must do her chores. “Mother was very organized. Positively, the self-discipline side of martial arts carried by means of to our lives.”
The loving and productive relationship together with her mother and father is obvious even now, maybe particularly throughout title defenses in ONE Championship, the place her father is all the time shut at hand with some much-valued recommendation. “It’s undoubtedly a singular bond and relationship that we’ve got,” shares Lee. “Other than him figuring out me, my complete life, instructing me not simply martial arts however to only rising as much as be a good human being, we join on a special stage I assume, as a result of he is aware of me inside and outside, it’s nice that I can belief that he’s all the time going to be looking for my finest pursuits. I really feel very grateful that we’ve gone on this journey collectively.”
As with many feminine martial artists, Lee, who holds a black belt in Brazilian jiujitsu, would usually be pressured to compete in opposition to boys and later males, since feminine college students are nonetheless within the minority, however as a substitute of complaining, she used this difficult state of affairs to her benefit. “I didn’t thoughts it,” she says. “It made me not have any excuses for myself. It made me higher and taught me to be smarter and use my ability.”
Lee feels that the expertise made her more durable and extra resilient. “The unstoppable mindset, you understand? It doesn’t matter if they’re greater, older, no matter. I’m simply going to go on the market and do my factor.” As of late, Lee can be a Jiu-Jitsu coach, alongside together with her husband Bruno Pucci, and they’re eager to carry extra females into the game. “We see boys signing up for the lessons and attempting them out, whereas their little sisters are on the aspect,” says Lee. “Finally we are able to pull them in and so they have a blast. They like it.”
Angela Lee Has an Unstoppable Perspective to Competitors
Lee’s lifetime in martial arts has seen her decide up all types of various types. “I’ve finished grappling matches, kickboxing, boxing, judo, after which pankration,” says Lee. “With the pankration, due to the way in which that dad taught me; to be ready for a self-defense situation the place the battle might go anyplace, from the toes to the bottom, I really feel like pankration actually translated properly (to MMA) as a result of I felt comfy putting on the toes and utilizing my judo and wrestling for takedowns, after which clearly grappling, and doing jiu-jitsu. These days, everyone seems to be a very well-rounded combined martial artist, however within the early days of MMA, everybody was actually stylistic.”
This unstoppable angle to competitors, and being a rounded fighter, has cast a storied journey that noticed Lee inking her first contract with ONE Championship in 2014, submitting Aya Saber with an arm bar within the opening spherical of her debut there. She was then victorious in Evolve MMA earlier than heading again to ONE Championship and racking up a string of successes that led her to a unanimous resolution win in opposition to Mei Yamaguchi in a battle of the 12 months contender, making her the youngest ever champion at simply 19.
In October of 2020, Lee entered one other thrilling part in her life when she introduced that she can be quickly stepping away from MMA in an effort to begin a household. In a welcome and progressive transfer, Lee was not pressured to vacate her title, one thing that was seen as an essential assertion by ONE Championship, in permitting females the appropriate to be pregnant with out being stripped of a title. And, if justification was ever wanted that Lee was a authentic champion, she made that assertion loud and proud when she returned on March 17 to defend the gold in opposition to Stamp Fairtex by way of a second-round submission.
Balancing MMA and Motherhood
Did Lee ever doubt that she might return after the nice milestone of getting child Ava? “In MMA, in fight sports activities, in sports activities on the whole, I actually suppose that it’s 90% psychological,” says Lee. “This previous battle camp, I struggled a lot with that. Simply gaining my confidence again, as a result of it had been some time since I stepped out of the cage. Quite a bit occurred in that point, and greater than something it was [about] simply proving to myself that, ‘Yeah, I nonetheless obtained it’ and I’m not simply the identical, I’m higher than I used to be earlier than. You would actually see my complete shift in mindset from the start of camp, to the mid-camp, to the tip of camp, after which after I arrived in Singapore on battle week there was little doubt in my thoughts that I knew what I used to be there to do and I knew that I might do it.”
Certainly, Lee withstood a devastating liver punch and nonetheless managed to defeat Fairtex with a rear bare chokehold to mark her profitable return.
“Being a first-time mother, I didn’t know what to anticipate,” says Lee. “How would my physique be after I gave delivery? How a lot time wouldn’t it take to get again into the swing of issues? I used to be attempting to analysis different fighters that had been mothers as properly … however it’s totally different for each particular person. I gave delivery to my daughter in April and it wasn’t till an excellent 6-months after that [when] I actually felt like all the pieces had healed and I felt sturdy. However in the course of the six months, I did step on the mats and prepare however I had limitations. It was very irritating for me as a result of earlier than I used to be pregnant, I had defended my title for the fourth time. I’m so glad I didn’t push issues and rush issues too shortly as a result of there was a very excessive likelihood that I might have injured myself and pushed [my progress] again many months.”
Because of a combination of stretching and light training, finally adopted by power conditioning, Lee started to realize confidence in her skill to select again up the place she left off. “From the second I gave delivery, I used to be already planning my comeback,” shares Lee. However how has caring for a child modified Lee’s life and work stability? “These days, I prepare within the morning,” she shares. “Then I’ve a break, and I get to maintain my daughter all day. I’m actually simply having fun with this time together with her, to be a fulltime mommy, and I really like seeing her develop.” And when it’s time to get to work, little Ava, who has not too long ago tuned 1 12 months previous and is starting to stroll, remains to be shut by. “Different skilled fighters are me, and so they’re like ‘you’re loopy’ for bringing your daughter to a battle week, however, fortunately, she’s wonderful. She does actually good with travelling and sleeping by means of the night time. It’s so totally different now being a mother, however I wouldn’t commerce it for the world!” There’s no doubting that Ava has a really inspirational mom to look as much as.
Angela Lee now says that she is worked up to get again into the cage as soon as achieve and defend her championship, and can be eyeing up Xiong Jing Nan’s strawweight gold. Within the meantime, ONE Championship is rising from power to power with the latest announcement that they’ve signed a multi-year deal to offer dwell protection for streaming on Prime Video later this 12 months.
Earlier than then, ONE Championship’s subsequent present will see a featherweight Muay Thai world championship conflict between Petchmorakot Petchyindee and Jimmy Vienot, on Might 20. For extra data go to: https://www.onefc.com/.
ONE 157: Petchmorakot vs. Vienot will air Friday, Might 20 with the lead card starting at 4:30 a.m ET, adopted by the primary card at 8:30 a.m ET on watch.onefc.com.