Back in March, Lee moved up a division to take a shot the ONE Women’s Strawweight World Title, and though she came close to a stunning submission win, the 23-year-old ultimately fell to a fifth-round TKO.
Now, Lee will be the one to defend her belt at the top of the first card in a double-header that will be the biggest martial arts event in history.
Ahead of the epic showdown, she sat down to talk about returning to the atomweight division, how she will correct her mistakes from her first meeting with Xiong, and how it feels to headline the first-ever card from the world’s largest martial arts organization to air live on American television.
ONE Championship: How does it feel to go back to atomweight after two bouts at strawweight?
Angela Lee: It’s always a push for me to get to this weight class, but this is my division. It’s where I am World Champion.
I know what it takes to get here, and I know how hard I have to work to get here. In that sense, I like it. I’m more than prepared to do what it takes for this fight.
ONE: Are you feeling any extra pressure to defend your ONE Women’s Atomweight World Title?
AL: There is definitely a lot at stake. My belt is on the line. I have to defend my title.
I’m ready to take on any challenger, but it just so happens that this World Title defense is a rematch against Xiong.
I do feel that I have fixed the mistakes going into that fight. I had prepared to the best of my abilities at that time – I was still recovering from my back injury, and that played a factor in my cardio.
That is something that I made sure would not be a problem this time. I’ve lost track of how many hundreds of miles that I’ve run already. I’m feeling good. I’m feeling great.
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ONE: What do you believe went right and what went wrong for you in that contest against Xiong in March?
AL: I think I put on a good fight. I was pushing the pace in each round. I was taking the center [of the Circle]. I was pressuring forward.
I’m pretty sure her game plan was to wear me out and take me into the later rounds, and I didn’t expect that from her. I thought she was going to come out strong and push forward like she usually does in her fights, and that threw me off a little bit.
Going into this fight, I’m prepared if she pressures forward or if I’m the one who is pressuring forward. I think, either way, the fight is going to be in my favor.
ONE: Even though the result did not go your way, do you still take away positives from that performance?
AL: Even though it was my first loss and I did take it very hard, I wouldn’t change anything because I know how much I’ve grown since then.
Even though it was just earlier this year, I really feel like I’ve made leaps and bounds in my training, and maybe that would not have happened if I came away with the win.
Everything happens for a reason. I’ve grown as a martial artist, as a fighter, as a World Champion, and I’m ready to show the world in October.
ONE: Do you expect Xiong to make major changes in her approach to this rematch?
AL: I’m not too sure. I’m sure that she has confidence going into this fight because of how our last encounter went, but I don’t know if that’s going to work in her favor.
Even though I’m the World Champion, a lot of people are siding with Xiong, and that’s fine by me. It doesn’t affect me. I know that I’m the World Champion of this division and I have what it takes to win this fight.
I embrace being the underdog. It’s a unique situation because I did lose to her, but she’s coming into my territory. She’s coming for my belt. I’m going to defend it fiercely. I’ve fixed my mistakes, and I know that I’m going to come back 10 times stronger.
ONE: You train primarily in Hawaii, and you will headline the first-ever ONE card to be broadcast live on American television on TNT. How much pride do you take in this opportunity?
AL: It’s a huge honor. It’s a huge opportunity. To be on the first event that’s going to be showcased on national television in the United States is such a big deal.
It’s my opportunity to shine and put on a great show. I want to make a great impression. I think a lot of people are going to have eyes on this event. It’s a huge deal. It’s stacked from top to bottom, and I think everyone will want to put on their best performance that night.
ONE: If you are successful on 13 October, do you believe you will see Xiong again in a trilogy bout?
AL: Definitely. I feel like when I have my hand raised on 13 October, we’re going to be facing each other again.
I’m looking forward to meeting her again, but for that to happen, I have to beat her on 13 October. From there, I think everyone knows what is going to happen. I think everyone is expecting the tiebreaker. It’s bound to happen.
Tokyo | 13 October | ONE: CENTURY | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: https://onechampionship.zaiko.io/e/onecentury
ONE: CENTURY is the biggest World Championship martial arts event in history with 28 World Champions featured across various martial arts. No organization has ever promoted two full-scale World Championship events on the same day.
The Home Of Martial Arts will break new ground as it brings multiple World Title bouts, a trio of World Grand Prix Championship Finals, and several World Champion versus World Champion matches to the famous Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan on 13 October.