“Unstoppable” Angela Lee is preparing for an epic comeback.
The undefeated ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion is healed, both physically and emotionally, from a tragic car accident suffered in November. Now, armed with a newfound competitive fire, she is looking for even more success in her return to action.
Lee’s return begins on Friday, 18 May, when she defends her coveted world title against Mei “V.V.” Yamaguchi in the main event of ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. The 21-year-old anticipates finishing her old rival, and then will set her sights on adding to her legacy with another piece of gold.
In this exclusive interview, Lee reflects on her much-needed break from competition, and shares her thoughts her forthcoming return in Singapore, the ONE Women’s Strawweight World Championship, and much more.
ONE Championship: Let’s start from the beginning. You were in an unfortunate car accident last November. What happened?
Angela Lee: I had a match scheduled for November [at ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT]. 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 [to the road] 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.
ONE: Understandably so. When did you mentally turn the corner, and start feeling better again?
AL: The next few weeks after [the accident] were probably the hardest, because I still flew down to Singapore for my obligations, and attended the ONE Championship event there. It was really emotional.
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 Years 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.
ONE: In a way, martial arts made you feel whole again.
AL: Yeah. 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.
ONE: Since you have been away, the ONE Women’s Strawweight World Championship has been introduced. Is that a title belt you want?
AL: It has always been a goal of mine since I entered the organization, and became the first female champion. 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.
ONE: The current women’s strawweight world titleholder is “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan. What are your thoughts on her?
AL: I saw her compete, of course. She is an explosive athlete. Very scrappy. I like that. I think it is great to have another female world champion in the organization, and I think it would be a great match-up [for me].
ONE: Before that even happens, you face Mei Yamaguchi in a rematch at ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS in May. How do you feel headed into that match?
AL: I am really excited. 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 defenses.
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.
ONE: We have also seen an amazing evolution in your brother, Christian.
AL: It is really amazing to be a first-hand witness and see what he does on a daily basis, and what he does on event night. It just comes down to his dedication and work ethic. He has been in the gym every day.
He is the first one on the mats, teaching the kid’s classes, and he has such a big heart and gives back. But when it is time for him to get to work, he just puts his head down, and he does it. He is so focused, not just on becoming a champion, but bettering himself as a martial artist in every aspect, every single day. That is what keeps him evolving so quickly. He is my inspiration!
ONE: When would you like to see him challenge Martin Nguyen for the ONE Featherweight World Title? What is the perfect situation?
AL: The perfect situation for me is Christian and I competing in the main event and co-main event on the same card. Boom. [We can become the] first brother-sister world champions. That is the goal. That is what we have been talking about ever since we were 16.
ONE: You and Bruno just got another home in Hawaii. What led to the move?
AL: It is hard for me to be apart from my family, because they are such a big part of my life, and I thought it would be better for us to move back here, and to be based in Hawaii. Of course, we will be taking a lot of trips to Singapore. We actually still have a place there. I know, for the rest of this year, I am planning to go back at least three, or four, more times.
ONE: When is the wedding?
AL: July 18th, that is our date, and it is going to be here in Hawaii. His family is flying up [from Brazil], and we may have some friends from Singapore coming. I always wanted to have a beach wedding. With the sunset, it is going to be like a fairytale.