MMA: Motherhood won't stop Angela Lee

MMA fighter vows to return to action before end of next year to defend belt

Angela Lee's One Championship atomweight title bout against Denice Zamboanga of the Philippines this month has been postponed after she revealed last week she is carrying her first child.
Angela Lee's One Championship atomweight title bout against Denice Zamboanga of the Philippines this month has been postponed after she revealed last week she is carrying her first child. PHOTO: EVOLVE MMA

Angela Lee believes becoming a mother will give her a "higher purpose" when she eventually returns to the cage, the mixed martial arts (MMA) star told The Straits Times yesterday.

The 24-year-old One Championship atomweight world champion had, together with husband and fellow One fighter Bruno Pucci, announced on social media last Thursday that she was 11 weeks pregnant with her first child.

The couple, who tied the knot in July 2018 and are based in Hawaii, will welcome the baby next April.

Lee, however, does not expect to be out of action for too long.

She said over a Zoom call: "I've told my family and Chatri (Sityodtong, One chief executive) that after I give birth in April, I'll start training as soon as possible, and get back in the cage before the end of the year.

"That's my goal for next year, we'll see how everything goes… I'll be 25 then, that's still quite young for our sport, and I still love MMA and what I do."

When asked if motherhood will make her a stronger fighter, she said: "I would think so. I can't really speak about it yet because I haven't had the baby, so I don't know exactly how it will change my mental and emotional state of mind.

"But I do believe the baby will give me a higher purpose, and that I will fight not just for wins or belts or for legacy. I'm excited to be fighting for the little one."

There are MMA fighters who have returned to action after their pregnancies, such as Ultimate Fighting Championship duo Mackenzie Dern and Michelle Waterson.

Lee said she has been a "big follower" of their journeys, and said: "I have huge respect for them and I cannot wait to be on the list among them as mum fighters and as a mum champion too."

The Canadian, who has a Singaporean father and South Korean mother, fights under the Singapore flag. She was slated to defend her title against Denice Zamboanga this month - the Filipina yesterday blasted Lee on Instagram for not vacating her title - but her pregnancy has changed those plans.

Her last fight was in October last year when she retained her title against Xiong Jingnan at the One: Century event in Tokyo.

With Lee out of action, One Championship has announced an atomweight Grand Prix tournament will kick off in January, with the winner earning a shot at the belt upon her return.

For now, Lee is happy to focus on her baby, whose gender is not revealed yet.

The joy in her voice was clear when she recounted how she broke the news to her family with fake scratch lottery tickets which said "we're having a baby", and groaned as she talked about being hit with "pretty bad" morning sickness.

"I call it all-day sickness," she joked.

No doubt, Lee and Pucci's child will grow up around martial arts - they run their own jiu-jitsu gym and their family owns an MMA gym.

So would they give their backing if their child were to express an interest in pursuing a career in MMA?

"Bruno and I have talked about this many times, about how we want to raise our children and give them all the opportunities and options to choose whatever they want to pursue," Lee said.

"We're not going to force them to take a certain path… (but) martial arts instil amazing values in young children, and if they choose the path of pro fighting, with both of us having expertise in it, they will have the support from us, 100 per cent."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2020, with the headline 'Motherhood won't stop Lee'. Print Edition | Subscribe