ONE Championship titleholder Angela Lee spoke at length this week on The MMA Hour about her upcoming title defense with Istela Nunes, a potential ‘super fight’ against UFC champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and sparring with her Mum and younger sister.
ONE Championship chairman and founder Chatri Sityodtyong recently announced he would be open to the possibility of cross promoting with the UFC. The fight on his mind was Lee vs. Jedrzejczyk. The 20-year old said she would be all in.
“It’s something that I’m all open for. I think it would be a really great opportunity. Every day I’m just learning and growing and evolving as a fighter and it would be a really great fight.”
Lee has made her name fighting in Asia, but the Hawaii-based atomweight is also gaining a reputation at home.
“In the beginning, it started out with most of the media and press being done in Asia because that’s where I fought, but I’ve been getting a ton of support in Hawaii from the news outlets doing stories on me and trying to help to promote it,” she said.
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Not only is she excited about gaining steam on her home turf, but Lee would love to see the day when ONE Championship comes to Hawaii.
“I ask them every time I see them, I would absolutely love it if ONE Championship would come out to Hawaii and do a show. I think they would do really well, especially as they have four fighters from Hawaii that fight in ONE already and with so much talent over here. It would be great for Hawaii fighters to have other promotions that they can fight in.”
Lee still follows the UFC and watches a lot of the shows. She follows the female fighters and believes she would be able to compete with any of them,
“I think that because the UFC is the major org here in North America a lot of times people didn’t pay as much attention to the other orgs (but) when I want to watch the fighters I am pretty confident in my skillset that I would do well.”
Lee has been described as the biggest female star in the sport today and, in this sense, she is following in the footsteps of Ronda Rousey. The first ever UFC women’s champion appears as if she may have retired, but the Singaporean/Korean is still a big fan.
“It’s so nice to see what she’s done for women’s MMA in the UFC and North America because that’s something that wasn’t there before. Going to Las Vegas and seeing her fight live (against Misha Tate), I still have so much respect for Ronda and all she’s done.”
Whether or not Rousey ever returns to the cage, the 20-year-old champion said that she’s just hoping to make the most of her window of opportunity in MMA.
“This sport that we’re in, it’s crazy, it’s full of highs and lows and everything happens so fast. At the end of the day you just really make the most of your time and that’s what’s going to count. (Ronda) made the most of her time and she’s done amazing things in that time.”
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However, Lee made it clear that she has absolutely no intention of walking away from the sport anytime soon.
“Looking at Ronda and looking at Gina (Carano), they’ve had amazingly successful careers and I’m still young in my career and I want to run with this for a while. I could do it forever. This is the best job.”
Lee won the title by beating Mei Yamaguci in a fight considered one of the best of 2016, but was almost a year before she returned to the cage.
“The long break was because leading up to the title fight I fought pretty frequently, five times in less than a year, but it was great to work so hard and put your head down and grind, grind, grind, and then have a little bit of a break.”
Next up is the bout with Nunes in Singapore on May 26. Lee will be putting her title on the line for the second time this year and is happy for a quick turnaround.
“I wanted to jump back in after I won in March because I wanted to get back in there. I’m used to competing so often and I was itching to get back in the cage and after my last fight I was like ‘let’s line up another one.’”
Lee will finish her fight camp at Evolve MMA in Singapore. Right now, training is in Hawaii and it’s very much a family affair.
“My Mum is one of my main drilling partners (and) my little sister too. She’s 12, but she’s almost my size already. I drill with my Mum and my sister for the majority of my fight camps and my brother Christian. They’ve been doing martial arts for a long time too, so it’s not like they don’t know what they’re doing.”
Her parents are both Taekwondo black belts who decided to start training in other disciplines in order to open a chain of gyms in Canada. It means she’s been doing mixed martial arts virtually all her life and, with a six figure ONE Championship contract, those childhood sessions are definitely starting to pay off.
If Lee can extend her perfect professional record, which currently stands at 7-0, by beating Nunes, then more attention from the American media will inevitably follow. Rousey might be retired, but there’s a bonafide female superstar training in Hawaii and fighting in Asia right now.
(Follow @JamesGoyder on Twitter)
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