Mixed martial arts: New MMA champ Angela Lee will fight anyone

Angela Lee battles Japan's Mei Yamaguchi for the One Championship atomweight title.
Angela Lee battles Japan's Mei Yamaguchi for the One Championship atomweight title. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

One C'ship's first women's world champion is ready for all comers but "superfight" ruled out

Angela Lee made history on Friday when she became mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion One Championship's first women's world champion, but her journey from here on will only get tougher.

One Championship chief executive Victor Cui said Lee, 19, would have no shortage of rivals aiming to wrest the atomweight belt from her after her well-deserved break.

He told The Sunday Times: "There are so many talented MMA athletes in Asia. We have so many people approaching us so the challenge is to sort through the talent and see who's ready to compete on the international stage. I think the bigger challenge is to make sure our champion continues to stay healthy (so she can defend her title)."

 
 

But he ruled out a one-off "superfight" with other promotions, such as United States-based Ultimate Fighting Championship, which boast top female fighters like Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm.

A jubilant Lee, who won by unanimous decision against Japanese Mei Yamaguchi, thanked her opponent for helping put on a "hell of a show" as they anchored the nine-bout fight card dubbed Ascent to Power. Slapping her new belt, she added: "I'm definitely looking to defend this baby right here. I'll fight anyone in the world, any day, anywhere, any time.

"I'm always looking to improve myself and I know there are a lot of really skilful, young and talented fighters that are up and coming."

Given the fan interest - the sell-out crowd of 11,000 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium chanted "An-ge-la" throughout her fight - Cui said Lee could defend her title here. However, he will leave that decision to vice-president (operations and competition) Matt Hume.

Wherever her next fight is staged, Lee, who is of Singaporean and Korean descent, needs to up her game - especially if her clash against Yamaguchi was anything to go by.

Lee, whose previous longest fight ended in the second round, was taken the full five-round distance by the MMA veteran, 33. By the third round, Lee, a state wrestling champion in Hawaii, appeared out of breath and was knocked down by a solid punch from Yamaguchi.

However, she recovered well and controlled the subsequent rounds by locking her opponent in various choke-holds to extend her perfect career win-loss record (6-0).

Yamaguchi, a champion in Japanese MMA organisation Deep Jewels, praised Lee as the best fighter she ever faced.

Heath Sims, head coach of Evolve Fight Team where Lee trains, said she needs to work on her stand-up game and clinches. But he took heart from her spirit.

The former Olympic wrestler said: "It was by far her toughest fight and she overcame a lot of submissions and a big knockdown. That took a lot of heart."

Lee's brother Christian, 17, also put up a good show on Friday, submitting Filipino Cary Bullos just 2min 7sec in the first round. He also boasts a perfect record (4-0).

The night's other title fight saw Brazil's Roger Gracie bag the vacant light heavyweight title.

Hailing from the Gracie clan, renowned in MMA circles for creating Brazilian jiu-jitsu, he smothered Michal Pasternak, making the Pole unconscious temporarily with an arm triangle choke just 2:13 into the first round.

It was Pasternak's first loss (11-1) in his pro career.

Two other local fighters were victorious. Benedict Ang defeated Filipino Jimmy Yabo, while Amir Khan won in the first round over Chinese Taipei's John Chang, both by technical knockouts.

But Friday night belonged to Lee, whose entrance music was The Script's Hall of Fame. An apt choice for an undefeated fighter, whose stock just keeps rising.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 08, 2016, with the headline 'Angela: I'll fight anyone'. Print Edition | Subscribe