MMA: Angela Lee ready to 'go through hell' as she targets second One C'ship belt

MMA star Angela Lee (left) and rookie W Series motorsports driver Bianca Bustamante at Evolve MMA on Sept 26, 2022. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - Angela Lee is ready to "go through hell" in her trilogy mixed martial arts (MMA) fight with long-time rival Xiong Jingnan at the One Fight Night 2 event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Saturday morning.

Lee, One Championship's atomweight (up to 52.2kg) world champion, is plotting to capture Xiong's strawweight (up to 56.7kg) world title and become One's first female MMA double champion. Lee's title is not on the line.

Their five-round bout will headline the event, which will begin on Saturday morning so as to be broadcast on prime time on Amazon Prime in the United States. It is the second event under a deal which was announced in April and will pave the way for One to stage its first major event in the US early next year.

Lee, born in Canada to a Singaporean dad and South Korean mum, told The Straits Times that she felt "the best I had ever been" in her last fight, a successful title defence against Stamp Fairtex in March. That was her first fight for almost 21/2 years and also her first as a mother - she gave birth to daughter Ava Marie in April 2021.

"In that fight, I think I proved to myself and everyone else that my heart is massive and nothing can stop me," the 26-year-old said.

"When I took that shot to the gut (midway in the first round), it was tough, yeah. But I fought through it. And I proved there's nothing my opponent can throw at me that is going to stop me from going forward."

Lee, whose latest of 13 tattoos is her daughter's name on her left collarbone, added that becoming a mother has given her a maternal instinct which she believes is an edge in the cage.

"If this was a scenario where we were not in the cage and on the streets (instead), and someone is coming after me and my baby? You'd better believe I'm going to go through hell to fight to protect her. So that's how I view things stepping in the cage now," she said. "You're going to see that this Saturday."

Chinese fighter Xiong, though, has established herself as the most dominant woman in One with six title defences - Lee is the next best with five - since winning the title in 2018.

The Shandong native is a woman of few words and was her usual steely-eyed self at the event's press conference on Wednesday.

"I have done a lot of preparation, be it grappling or striking and I hope to bring an interesting fight on Saturday," she said, promising to display "an ultimate weapon" against Lee.

The two rivals have faced each other twice before, each unsuccessfully vying for the other's title.

Xiong, 34, defeated Lee by technical knockout to retain the strawweight belt in March 2019, before Lee submitted Xiong with a rear naked choke in a rematch, this time for her atomweight title, seven months later.

Said Lee: "It's been three years and I know we both have improved since then and I'm excited to step into the cage and test ourselves and see who's going to come out on top. It's going to be a great fight."

One chief executive officer Chatri Sityodtong predicted a finish - he did not pick in favour of whom - "in the fourth or fifth rounds".

MMA star Angela Lee (right) interacts with rookie W Series motorsports driver Bianca Bustamante in the cage on Sept 26, 2022. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

He added he was "super fired up" by his organisation's second show on Amazon Prime following the success of the first, which he said drew double the number of viewers Amazon Prime had projected. However, he did not reveal any figures.

Also on the One Fight Night 2 card on Saturday is an inaugural submission grappling flyweight (up to 61.2kg) championship bout between Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts Mikey Musumeci and Cleber Sousa, both 26.

Like Lee and Xiong, these two have also met twice before, with each picking up one win. Chatri called their contest a "match made in heaven".

Sousa noted that their upcoming match-up will be a no-gi affair, and said: "I truly feel prepared, we are now both much more experienced than before... I train myself to be the best of myself to display my abilities and get the victory."

The clean-cut Musumeci, a five-time International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) world champion, said: "I'm here in Singapore to do two things - do jiu-jitsu and eat pizza, and pizza places don't open till after the match. I haven't taken a day off in three months... (and) I'm so ready for this match."

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