How A Bulldog Named Rocky Healed Angela Lee’s Troubled Heart
“Unstoppable” Angela Lee often travels across the globe to compete in ONE Championship as the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion, fulfill her many media commitments, and train at Singapore’s Evolve MMA.
However, when the 20-year-old martial arts superstar returns home to Hawaii, the only thing she wants to do is spend time with Rocky, her beloved bulldog. In fact, just the mere mention of the one-year-old pup’s name is enough to melt the undefeated warrior’s heart.
“Oh my God,” she says excitedly with a shriek. “He is my baby!”
Lee has always loved dogs and other animals, but she developed a soft spot for Rocky from the very first moment she laid eyes on him.
Slightly more than a year ago, the “Unstoppable” one was in the middle of an extensive training camp as she was preparing to battle Japan’s Mei Yamaguchi for the inaugural ONE Women’s Atomweight World Championship. Unexpectedly, in the midst of her camp, she experienced some turbulence in her personal life.
“I was really sad”, Lee recalls, “and not in a good place.”
There was a dark cloud hanging over Lee. That much became apparent to those closest around her, especially her father and head coach Ken. Knowing his little girl better than the back of his hand, he knew exactly how to lift her spirits.
“I was looking at puppies, and one day, he surprised me and said, ‘Angela, I have seen this puppy in the paper for sale. Do you want to check him out with me?’ So we took a look,” recalls Lee, excitedly. “I had my mind set on [another dog], but when I saw Rocky, I fell in love. He is the cutest guy ever.
“The breeder was going to keep him because he was the pick of the litter, but then the breeder could not keep him for some reason, so they put him up for sale. We got really lucky with him. It was just meant to be.”
Rocky’s presence helped Lee power through her issues, allowed her to focus, and brought a lot of positive energy to the final weeks of her camp. As history would now show, she defeated Yamaguchi in a five-round thriller at ONE: ASCENT TO POWER, and captured the inaugural ONE Women’s Atomweight World Championship. With that feat, she became the youngest-ever World Champion in mixed martial arts history.
Following her big title win, the “Unstoppable” one took a much-needed break from the sport to recover, both mentally and physically. That allowed the champ to bond and get more acquainted with her new four-legged best friend.
The pair regularly do the everyday activities necessary to maintain a solid human-dog relationship. They play in the backyard, she bathes him in a circular swimming pool, and she takes him for little walks around the neighborhood. Lee also took Rocky with her to the beach once, but an incident soon put an end to that.
“He is terrified of the water, so I cannot really bring him to the beach anymore. I think I traumatized him,” she says. “When he was a little puppy, he was on the stand-up paddle board with me, and I was paddling out in the water.
“Everything was fine, but for some reason, he freaked out, decided to jump off the board, and tried to swim all the way back to shore. So he does not like the waves or the water anymore.”
Another thing Rocky does not like is when Lee is absent. The champ often travels abroad to fulfill media obligations, train at Evolve MMA in Singapore, and to defend her newly-minted belt, like she did in Bangkok this past March against Jenny Huang at ONE: WARRIOR KINGDOM. She is about to do the same on Friday Night, 26 May, when she meets Istela Nunes at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES in the Lion City.
Needless to say, it is hard for “Unstoppable” to leave her bulldog. She has gotten extremely attached to Rocky, and whenever she travels, her family sends her pictures and updates on him. That was especially important in putting to ease one of her major fears – that her newfound love would forget her.
“He always did [remember me] when I came back, and we would play and play,” she says with a chuckle. “It is funny, because he is a really good pup, but when I am gone, he acts up. It makes it hard on my family to take care of him.”
Despite the mischief, everyone in the Lee family is more than happy to pitch in and help. After all, Rocky is the champ’s undying companion, and was there to help lift her spirits when she was absolutely down. That is something Lee remembers every time she sees her pup’s face, and he continues to melt her heart every second of every day.
“He is my guy,” says Lee, succinctly summing up her best friend and companion.