SINGAPORE - The lights inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium danced off the six gold championship belts sitting on the stage, and while the glare blinded some temporarily, Angela Lee's focus never strayed.
The 25-year-old was stony-faced for most of Wednesday (March 23) afternoon's press conference for One Championship's One X event that will take place on Saturday, reflecting the attitude she wanted to take into her headline bout.
Lee, One's women's atomweight world champion, will defend her title against Thai fighter Stamp Fairtex, a striking specialist who became the top contender after winning an atomweight Grand Prix tournament last December.
Born in Canada to a Singaporean dad and a South Korean mum, mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Lee said on Wednesday her resolve to retain her title came from knowing she is fighting for more than herself. Saturday night's fight will be her first since October 2019. In April 2021, she gave birth to her first child, Ava Marie.
Wearing a black outfit that showed off a toned midriff, Lee described her last two years as "a crazy journey... (where) I've worked harder than ever."
"I definitely want to make a statement and show it women and mothers are the strongest people on the planet," she added. "Everyone is going to see that on Saturday."
When The Straits Times asked what elements of her preparation have differed, Lee said: "Everything. I've been preparing for the fight for five months now, double the time I usually (spend) for my fight camp... Trying to figure out the schedule and train with a baby is challenging.
"But I'm really lucky that I have an amazing family and support team, and I'm able to do what I love and also be a mum."
Lee, however, brushed aside the suggestion that the added motivation to her fight also meant more pressure.
"To me, it just motivates me that much more, and really fires me up. I can't wait to go out there and prove to everyone and show everyone what I can do," she said.
Stamp, a former kickboxing and muay thai champion in One, will be gunning for her third belt and first major MMA title since making her debut in the discipline in 2018.
The 24-year-old, a self-described "countryside girl", said: "By winning this fight, I'll prove a nobody like me can achieve anything."
One X is billed by the Singapore-headquartered MMA organisation as its biggest card ever, with the Lee-Stamp fight also joined by a special rules fight between former Ultimate Fighting Championship great Demetrious Johnson and muay thai star Rodtang Jitmuangnon, as well as four other world title fights in MMA, kickboxing and muay thai.
Before taking her leave, Lee squared off with Stamp in a promotional face-off and wore a confident smirk as she stared eye-to-eye with her rival.
But as the pair turned to face the media photographers amid the flash of light bulbs and camera clicks, Lee's half-smile disappeared and that resolute, unflinching expression returned. She is ready to prove her point.