ONE Championship has continuously provided teenage mixed martial artists with an excellent stage to showcase their skills.
Many of these young stars impressed the global fan base in their debuts, and several have continued to enjoy massive success in their careers.
At ONE: WINTER WARRIORS II this Friday, 17 December, Team Lakay prince Jhanlo Mark “The Machine” Sangiao has a chance to join the elite club of teen athletes who dazzled in their first promotional appearances before the age of 20.
Ahead of the 19-year-old Filipino’s date with destiny, we look back at seven other athletes who tasted victory in their ONE debuts during their teenage years.
#1 Christian Lee
Nowadays, most fans would know the name Christian “The Warrior” Lee.
But before he became a well-known athlete and ONE World Champion, Lee was a 17-year-old high school student who had to take a quick break from his studies so he could travel to Manila, Philippines, for his mixed martial arts debut.
“The Warrior” kick-started his professional career in a battle against Australian veteran David Meak at ONE: SPIRIT OF CHAMPIONS in December 2015, and needed just 29 seconds to earn the win.
Lee quickly closed the distance and hurt Meak with a hard kick. As the Australian tried to sprint away, the Singaporean-American followed and landed a left hook, a cross, and a final left hook, which sent his rival crashing to the canvas. That forced the referee to intervene and wave off the action.
Although short, Lee’s debut was certainly sweet, and his power and skill were evident.
#2 Pongsiri Mitsatit
Before he even stepped onto the global stage, Thai star Pongsiri “The Smiling Assassin” Mitsatit had already amassed a 6-0 professional mixed martial arts record in Thailand.
That would be a pretty impressive slate for any mixed martial artist, but it’s made even more mind-blowing when considering that he had earned it by the age of 19.
So when he made the walk to the Circle for the first time to face Myanmar’s Ye Thway Ne at ONE: KINGDOM OF CHAMPIONS in May 2016, fans were expecting him to showcase why he was one of the most promising young stars of the Thai MMA circuit. And he did just that.
Slightly over a minute into the contest, Mitsatit shot for a takedown. From there, he passed his opponent’s guard, dropped an elbow, and unleashed heavy knees to the head of his opponent until the referee called off the bout.
Just like that, “The Smiling Assassin” earned his seventh career win at 2:24 of the first frame.
#3 Victoria Lee
16 years, 9 months, and 9 days.
Lee entered the Circle with plenty of hype surrounding her, thanks to her older sister, Angela, and brother, Christian, who were both ONE World Champions at the time.
And with style and maturity beyond her years, “The Prodigy” lived up to it completely and outclassed her more senior rival.
Lee’s grappling ability, composure, and aggression were paired with a striking ability that was unmatched throughout the contest, and this arsenal powered her to a rear-naked choke submission win 63 seconds into the second round.
#4 Itsuki Hirata
Immediately after graduating from high school, Itsuki “Android 18” Hirata decided to swap the judo gi for MMA gloves. Little did she know she would be making her professional debut just two years later in The Home of Martial Arts.
Hirata, then 19, faced off against Angelie “D Explorer” Sabanal at ONE: LEGENDARY QUEST in June 2019, and both started off the contest by trading leather. But as soon as the Japanese grappler scored her first takedown, there was no way for her rival to escape.
“Android 18” got the job done by moving into side control and twisting her opponent’s right arm backward. Sabanal was in pain, and she eventually tapped to Hirata’s brilliant Americana submission at 2:59 of round one.
#5 Jihin Radzuan
Jihin “Shadow Cat” Radzuan wasn’t your typical college student in Malaysia. Aside from taking online Veterinary Nursing courses, the Johor Bahru resident had a full-time job – and an MMA career.
Her love for the all-encompassing sport won out, though, and so she began to focus on it full-time.
At 19 years old, she introduced herself to the global fan base with a decisive performance against India’s Puja “The Cyclone” Tomar at ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY in March 2018.
“Shadow Cat” controlled the fight on the canvas, and the victory eventually came from there. After two failed armbar attempts in the second round, she went after a triangle choke and finally forced a tap from her opponent at 2:23 of the second frame.
#6 Agilan Thani
Just three years before he made his promotional debut against Reant Febriza Rainir at ONE: AGE OF CHAMPIONS in March 2015, Agilan “Alligator” Thani was a young boy who was bullied in school due to his weight.
But the Malaysian mixed martial artist turned his life around and used the tough times as motivation to find glory.
His high school bullies would have definitely figured out to stop messing with the 19-year-old after he hammered his way to a dominant win in front of his hometown crowd in Kuala Lumpur.
From the first bell, the young phenom didn’t give Rainir any room to breathe, and he successfully scored a takedown after just 12 seconds.
From there, he attempted at least 50 strikes from mount and sealed his second professional win at 1:20 of the opening round.
#7 Angela Lee
“Unstoppable” Angela Lee, the eldest of the Lee siblings, made her professional debut against Egyptian star Aya Saber at ONE: WARRIOR’S QUEST in May 2015 – nearly two months short of her 19th birthday.
Despite going up against an athlete with eight bouts on her resume, Lee made things look easy and secured a memorable win in 103 seconds.
Moments after taking her rival to the canvas with a perfectly executed hip toss, the Singaporean-American fired away with a couple of wild shots at Saber.
The latter tried to find an escape route by pushing Lee away with her palms, but the intelligent young warrior grabbed her rival’s right arm and locked in the bout-ending armbar.
And, just one year later, Lee would become the inaugural ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion.