Mixed martial arts: Champion Angela Lee 'cannot wait' to pack a punch in the cage

MMA fighter and atomweight champion Angela Lee says that staying at the top is harder than getting to the top. She is also looking forward to her first title defence.
MMA fighter and atomweight champion Angela Lee says that staying at the top is harder than getting to the top. She is also looking forward to her first title defence.ST PHOTO: ALVIN CHIA

Angela Lee's mixed martial arts (MMA) career has been on an upward trajectory after she became One Championship's first female world champion in May.

But the 20-year-old suffered her first blip, albeit a minor one, on Aug 13 at a One Championship grappling contest in Macau.

Lee, who holds a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), found herself outmanoeuvred by a superior opponent in that discipline - eight-time world champion Michelle Nicolini.

Lee lost that match via submission, but the bout does not officially count towards her MMA fighting record, which is still at a perfect 6-0 (win-loss).

Though the submissions specialist admitted that BJJ is not her strength and the defeat happened on the mats instead of inside a cage, she said a loss is still a loss for her.

She said: "I learnt that I shouldn't just jump into something if I wasn't really prepared for it. She's an expert in that field and a highly qualified grappler. I think I took it more lightly than I should have.

"I love competing, so a loss is never fun, I was definitely disappointed.

"But MMA is still my thing and I cannot wait to get back into the cage. It has fired me up to train harder, and motivated me to tighten up my game."

Lee, an American fighter of Singaporean and Korean descent who trains out of the Evolve MMA gym in Singapore, is back in town for a four-day visit to attend the One Asia MMA Summit at Marina Bay Sands.

There is more evidence of her rising stock as she has been invited to the red carpet of a Netflix event in New York next week.

She could also return to the Singapore Indoor Stadium to fight at a One Championship event, dubbed Defending Honour, on Nov 11.

Regardless of whether her atomweight title defence will be on the fight card or not, Lee is ready and eager to take on any challenger.

She said: "I cannot wait for my first title defence. I know that I'll be more than prepared for it. It's been a crazy year for me and I know that everyone is just looking forward to my next fight."

Ominously for her potential opponents, she has added more weapons to her arsenal.

She said: "They can watch as many videos as they want but they'll never fully know my game. I'm constantly evolving my game and closing the gaps where I can.

"I work a lot on strengthening individual areas like my transitions and my striking.

"I've learnt that staying at the top is harder than getting to the top. I'm working harder than ever and I know everyone wants to come after me."

And with One Championship set to hold new events in Japan and South Korea next year, fans could see more of Lee.

Said the promotion's chairman and founder Chatri Sityodtong: "It (2017) will have the most events ever in the history of One Championship in a calendar year."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2016, with the headline 'Champion Lee 'cannot wait' to pack a punch in the cage'. Print Edition | Subscribe