Fan, media duties no distraction for S'porean

Seeing how other MMA organisations' belts have changed hands a lot, Angela Lee is determined to retain her One atomweight title.
Seeing how other MMA organisations' belts have changed hands a lot, Angela Lee is determined to retain her One atomweight title.

A few weeks ago, on her Instagram account, Angela Lee saw a comment from a fan who said he cannot believe he sat next to her on the same flight.

Yesterday, bursting with laughter, she told The Straits Times: "I was like, 'you didn't even say hi'! Just talk to me. It's a long flight."

Starstruck fans, on top of more media engagements, are just one of the issues the 20-year-old has to grapple with after defeating Japan's Mei Yamaguchi to clinch the One Championship atomweight title in May.

"It's been nice though. All my supporters have been very positive and it hasn't been intrusive," said Lee, who was in Macau to watch her younger brother Christian compete in One Championship's Heroes of the World event at the Cotai Arena last Saturday.

Christian, 18, lost by submission to Australia's Martin Nguyen. It was the first defeat of his six-fight professional career.

A television interview in her native Hawaii and a shoot with Milo for a 15-second advertisement over the past months are representative of a new normal for the fighter, whose father Ken now doubles up as her agent and coach.

But all that does not blind Angela, of Singaporean and Korean descent, from her craft.

The youngest-ever MMA world champion said: "As of now nothing is confirmed but I'm hoping to get another fight before the end of the year. I've been training hard and preparing myself. I just want to improve and keep upping my game."

Noting how the Ultimate Fighting Championship women's bantamweight title has changed hands thrice in the last seven months, Lee said she is bent on retaining her title to cement her status as world champion.

"In other promotions the belt's been tossed around, that's why I'm taking my training very seriously. I know I've got a target on my back now" said Lee, whose professional record stands at a flawless six wins, zero losses.

"My next fight is very important because I really believe you are not really a legitimate (champion) until you defend your belt."

One potential contender could be Brazil's Istela Nunes, who beat Yamaguchi by a split decision on Saturday. Angela said Nunes' muay thai background meant she has a lot of experience in the stand-up game.

"But MMA's different," she noted gravely.

With One Championship set to stage a Singapore show in November, Lee said it would be nice to defend her belt in front of home supporters.

One thing is for sure - if anyone wants to prise the title from her, they need to be at the top of their game.

"Winning the belt was the greatest achievement of my life and I don't want to lose it," she said . "I'm going to fight for it with my life."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2016, with the headline 'Fan, media duties no distraction for S'porean'. Print Edition | Subscribe