“Unstoppable” Angela Lee wants to be an active champion, and after confirming another championship bout just days after her first title defense, it is plain to see she is living up to her word.
The undefeated ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion will return to the cage and defend her belt against Brazilian knockout artist Istela Nunes at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES, which takes place at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday Night, 26 May.
Ever since making her professional debut in ONE Championship back in May 2015, Lee has lived up to her “Unstoppable” moniker. She has been perfect, going 7-0 and submitting her first five opponents, and in her last bout, she defeated previously-unbeaten Jenny Huang at ONE: WARRIOR KINGDOM via TKO.
Now she has another unbeaten challenger in Nunes, a Muay Thai specialist who is 5-0-1. Nunes is best known for defeating Mei Yamaguchi at ONE: HEROES OF THE WORLD last August, and for her viral ‘triple head kick’ knockout of an opponent in another promotion.
In this exclusive interview, Lee talks all about her upcoming opponent and much more.
ONE: How did it feel to get back into the cage against Jenny Huang after an eight-month break?
Angela Lee: It was great, because I really got to work on the striking aspect in my last camp. I worked a lot with my dad on the combinations we wanted to do, and I also got to train a lot with the Muay Thai World Champions at Evolve.
Their striking knowledge and insight really helped me to work on the combinations and strikes I landed on Jenny (Huang). Mostly, I had so much fun. I was excited to get back into the cage.
Previously, you said you wanted to use that bout to make a statement about who Angela Lee is as an athlete. What was the statement you made?
I feel like the statement I made with that bout was: ‘Look, I am the champion, I am legitimate, and I am a finisher.’ I am going to go in there, and ever single time I step inside the cage, my goal is to finish the opponent that is in front of me.
The bout I won the title, that was the first time I ever went to a decision, but in all my matches, I try to finish, because I never want to leave it up to the judges. Also, because I want to finish the bout, that makes me one of the more exciting athletes. I am always trying to finish and push the pace, and I think that is something everyone saw in [this past] bout.
What is so surprising is, four days after defeating Huang, it was announced you would be headlining ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES and clashing with Istela Nunes. How did that matchup come about so quickly?
I could not pass up the opportunity to compete in Singapore, even though it was pretty close [to my last contest]. When I was competing in the beginning of my career, that is how the bouts were. We took one right after the other, so I am just excited to get back in the game and get the ball rolling, even though it was a couple of days after my last title defense.
Also, right after that match, you went to Shanghai for a few days to represent ONE at a conference. Tell us about your recent experience.
It was amazing. I have been to China before, but it was to Beijing, so going to Shanghai was completely different. It is very modern and very city-like, so the first day I got there I did some sightseeing, ate some food, and bought some souvenirs.
The second day was the day I did three seminars. I visited two local martial arts gyms in Shanghai, and was also a part of this Nike super convention where personal trainers from all around the world come together, take each other’s classes, and learn.
One of the classes was martial arts, and I was teaching it, and there was a huge turnout. There were over 50 people in that room, and I had an hour and half to two hours to work with them, teach some basics of martial arts, and what our sport is about. It was a really cool experience. I have never done anything like it before.
ONE is clearly focused on hosting more events in China. Is competing in that country on your bucket list?
I would love to compete in China. I think if you have the opportunity to compete in other places, then why not? You get to be exposed to the different culture in that area and see what it is like over there. I would be all for that.
Let’s talk about your upcoming bout against Istela Nunes at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES. What is your first impression about her?
Istela Nunes is a legitimate striker. She is very explosive, she has highlight-reel knockouts, and she is a good athlete. Obviously, she is undefeated as well, so she is going to have confidence in this matchup, and she is training very, very hard, but you know what?
I am the more complete martial artist, and at the end of the day, that is what it comes down to. I have been doing this my whole life — I have been doing martial arts my whole life — and when we step into the cage, I know without a doubt I am going to come out victorious.
Nunes is well-respected for her stand-up, but what are your thoughts on her grappling?
I cannot disregard her ground game because she is a martial artist, and martial artists are always looking to improve, so who knows? Since the time she competed against Mei (Yamaguchi), she could have been working hard on her jiu-jitsu and wrestling, and I am sure she has.
I cannot focus too much on what she is going to bring to the table and what her game plan is. All I can do is focus on myself, my game plan, and make myself as prepared as I can be, so that when I step into the cage, I can perform to the best of my abilities.
This is also the third time women are headlining a ONE event, even getting top billing over the welterweight title bout between Ben Askren and Agilan Thani. How does that feel?
It is a huge honor. When I started competing in ONE two years ago, I was one of the opening bouts, and I competed with Ben Askren on the same card, so it is a huge honor to be on the same card with him again, especially because he is the best welterweight in the world, and he is an [Evolve] teammate as well.
He is such a cool guy, so it is a huge honor and I am so lucky. And yes, it is a third time women have headlined a fight, and it has been me this whole time. I cannot believe it. I am so happy with how far we have come with women’s martial arts in Asia so far. It is amazing.