“Unstoppable” Angela Lee may be one of the youngest athletes on the ONE Championship roster, but she has already accomplished so much in her four-year mixed martial arts career.
The Singaporean claimed the inaugural ONE Women’s Atomweight World Title, she has maintained a spotless record, and she has become an ambassador for the sport all around the globe.
For all the elite skills the megastar has displayed inside the cage, patience may be the most important attribute that has allowed her to develop into the World Champion she is today.
Patience may not necessarily be a characteristic that jumps off the television screen in the typical way heart and toughness do, but it is one attribute Lee has wielded with expert precision.
Very early in her career, the 22-year-old understood that patience would be one of her most valuable weapons as she looked to conquer this incredibly complex sport.
“It’s a process, and I’m still learning,” Lee says ahead of her co-main event bout at ONE: A NEW ERA on Sunday, 31 March.
“I’m still growing through this process. One thing that has really helped me is that I have such great mentors around me.
“My parents have been such a huge part of this journey and [it is important] having them speak into my life because, at the end of the day, I know they only want the best for me. We have that special bond, and that’s really helped me.
“Also, I just love what I do. I love that I’m able to talk to people, do what I love, and share that with people. Honestly, I’m so grateful.”
In her bouts, Lee has showcased unimaginable composure in allowing openings to develop rather than recklessly plowing ahead and putting herself in a dangerous position.
Outside the cage, she has also exemplified restraint — especially when it pertains to life’s trials and tribulations.
Perhaps the best example of that occurred last year. The Singaporean was scheduled to face ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan for an opportunity to make history as the first women’s two-division ONE World Champion.
However, in the weeks leading up to ONE: HEART OF THE LION in November, Lee suffered a debilitating back injury, which essentially forced her to stop training.
As much as she wanted to push through the pain, the Evolve representative withdrew from the contest. Lee knew it was the best decision for her career longevity, and returning to perfect health would provide her with the best opportunity to dethrone the strawweight queen later.
“That part is all about honesty. It’s about being honest with yourself, and that’s a huge part of martial arts. That’s something I had to learn growing up,” the superstar explains.
“At the end of the day, you can fake it to everyone and say, ‘Oh, I’m fine.’ But you can’t fake it to yourself. Is it doing something good or is it doing something bad?
“Of course, as a fighter, we try to have that tough mindset of pushing through. But there comes a point where you’ve just got to take a step back, be honest with yourself, and say, ‘Hey, this isn’t the time for me to do this right now. I need to take a break and do the smart thing for my body so I can have a long career.’ Or else, you could end up making it worse.”
While Lee could take credit for the patience she has shown over the years, she points to the people surrounding her as the best possible influences on every decision she makes for her career.
Simply put, teamwork has truly made the World Champion’s dream work.
“You need a team around you because everyone is going to have a different point of view,” the Singaporean explains.
“Everyone is going to have a different opinion and when we make decisions — whether it’s my fight camp, Christian’s, or Bruno’s — we always make them as a family.
“Christian can speak into my life, and so can my mom, my dad, and Bruno. That’s usually how we make our decisions. It’s not a dictatorship. It’s important to let people have their opinion and talk to you about it.
“Those are the people who care about you, and those are the people who know you the best. It’s important you give them a voice.”
As fate would have it, patience has redirected Lee to a history-defining moment at the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan later this month.
Now fully healed, she will finally challenge Xiong at ONE: A NEW ERA for the chance to become a dual ONE Women’s World Champion.
If she were to achieve this astonishing feat, then it is due to her skills, her heart, her team, and most certainly her patience.