Victoria Lee: Winning MMA Debut Was ‘Huge Relief’
Victoria “The Prodigy” Lee lived up to the hype when she dispatched Sunisa “Thunderstorm” Srisa in her professional debut at ONE: FISTS OF FURY.
The 16-year-old phenom dominated the atomweight mixed martial arts clash at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday, 26 February, and finished her Thai rival with a rear-naked choke early in the second round.
Given her ONE World Champion siblings “Unstoppable” Angela Lee and Christian “The Warrior” Lee, there was always going to be a lot of expectations for the Singaporean-American teenage sensation, but she took in every moment of the occasion and then shook off the butterflies when the Circle door slammed shut.
“When I first got on the stage and they were announcing my name, it was crazy. It was a really cool experience and I really enjoyed it,” Lee recalls.
“I felt so [many] nerves. This is the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life and I felt all of it when I was walking into the arena. But when I stepped into the Circle, I blocked it all out, breathed, and it really helped to clear my mind to just focus on the fight and go out there and perform.”
The performance itself was a sterling one, as “The Prodigy” overwhelmed her more experienced rival en route to an emphatic submission win.
Still, the youngster knows there is a lot of work to be done before her next assignment.
“I was happy that I finished the fight and came out with a victory, but I’m always looking to improve myself. I can’t wait to get back into the gym and work harder and improve my performance,” Lee says.
Lee’s father and head coach, Ken, was also thrilled with how things played out in his daughter’s opening showcase.
“I think she did well. I am very happy with her performance,” he says.
“At 16 years old, her first fight was on the biggest stage in the world, and she fought a girl that had more fights than most girls who debut would face — [Srisen] had five fights, and three fights in ONE. Victoria did great. She finished her opponent decisively.”
There was some entertaining back-and-forth striking between Lee and Srisen at the start of the opening frame, and the Thai judoka even scored with a beautiful hip throw to get the fight to the canvas. But from there, things turned heavily in the Hawaii resident’s favor.
After reversing position and taking her rival’s back, “The Prodigy” looked close to finishing with ground-and-pound until “Thunderstorm” was saved by the bell.
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Although a first-round finish would have been a dream start, the chance to adjust and adapt gave the United MMA product more chances to learn – and more valuable time in the Circle.
Lee then raced out of the blocks for round two and quickly sealed the deal with a rear-naked choke.
“I was looking [for] the rear-naked choke [in round one], but I wasn’t able to get under the chin completely when I was slicing, and I went to try and pound her out for the TKO,” she says.
“When I went into the second round, it was just like how it was supposed to go in the first. I just cleared my mind and said, ‘Remember the game plan.’
“I took her back and just waited for the right opportunity. When I saw that her head popped up, I was able to fully sink in the choke this time and then I just squeezed.”
Ken was proud of how his young charge adapted to the circumstances and that she went back to basics to get the win.
“I think she did what she had to do. Going into the second round, there’s no problem with that. The only thing that we focus on is finishing our opponents before the final bell,” he states.
For her part, “The Prodigy” entered her pro debut with a ton of expectation on her shoulders. And despite responding well to them, she admits that it felt like a weight had been lifted off her back when the referee waved off the action.
“Oh, it was such a huge relief for me,” Lee says.
“There was so much build-up to this fight with the pressure and emotion, and as soon as the fight was over, everything was just a huge relief. It felt great.”
In finishing Srisen, Lee delivered a performance beyond her 16 years, and fans are now eager to see whether she can follow in the World Championship footsteps of her brother and sister.
However, father Ken does not want to race too far ahead. He knows his daughter has a chance to do great things but adds that she must develop her skill set to prepare for even tougher tests.
“[The most important thing] is that she grows and learns from this experience, and she continues to improve her game,” he says.
“The Prodigy” concurs. She will take the opponents as they come while continuing to hone her craft in the gym and in the Circle.
Moreover, it’s vital that she does so at the right pace so that she can build solid foundations for what will surely be a long career in ONE.
“There’s nobody that I have in mind [to face next],” Lee says.
“I don’t have a certain number of fights that I want to do. I just want to compete as often as I can. I’m going to go back to the gym, train harder than ever, and hopefully get back into the cage [soon].”
Read more: Victoria Lee Impresses In MMA Debut, Finishes Sunisa Srisen