Lee boosted by long break

One's atomweight champion Angela Lee with her belt after defeating Istela Nunes last May. Lee will defend her title against Japan's Mei Yamaguchi on May 18.
One's atomweight champion Angela Lee with her belt after defeating Istela Nunes last May. Lee will defend her title against Japan's Mei Yamaguchi on May 18.ST FILE PHOTO

Atomweight champion believes that she has improved ahead of 1st fight since car accident

Mixed martial arts fighter Angela Lee believes she is reinvigorated by her almost year-long absence from competition, and says it will show in the May 18 defence of her One Championship atomweight title against Mei Yamaguchi.

Her involvement in an accident last November led to the postponement of this fight, which had been scheduled to take place two weeks after she crashed her car in Hawaii.

Asked about ring rust during a conference call yesterday, she said: "It will be quite the opposite. This break has given me so much time to prepare and really upgrade my skills in many areas. You can see in my two title defences that I've made leaps and bounds in how I execute my technique and finish my fights. I'm looking forward to showing that again."

The bout will be held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, where the 21-year-old American last fought in a successful title defence against Brazil's Istela Nunes last May.

She returned to the venue in November's Immortal Pursuit event. On her tearful walk down the ramp that night, Lee, who fights under the Singapore flag, admitted that in a "very tough time", she was overwhelmed by emotion after "feeling the support from everyone".

Lee, based in Hawaii and Singapore, suffered a concussion and minor burns in the accident, as well as emotional trauma. But after taking a break from training during Christmas and New Year to spend time with her family, she insists she is now back at "100 per cent", both physically and mentally.

"Just by me wanting to take another fight is my way of saying I'm still here, I'm still in the game, still have the passion for doing this," she said. "I'm looking for a great night.

"I don't want to have any pressure going into the fight. I just want to go in there, do what I love, and the result will show."

But Japan's Yamaguchi is certain she will have Lee's number this time. She lost their first fight in May 2016 by unanimous decision after five rounds.

"I know a lot of people are wondering who can stop the 'Unstoppable' Lee," said the 35-year-old, who has spent the past two years working on improving her skill set in jiu-jitsu, karate and kickboxing. "I believe I can be the one."

One chairman and chief executive Chatri Sityodtong reiterated his desire to see Lee in a cross-promotion fight with the strawweight champion of MMA giant Ultimate Fighting Championship. He had made similar comments last year.

He said during the conference call: "100 per cent. We would love nothing better than to (issue) an open invitation to UFC to compete... Angela is a very, very special athlete and I do believe she has what it takes to be a two-or even three-division world champion.

"But let's not get ahead of ourselves. She has Mei in front of her, and I don't think we can count (Yamaguchi) out so easily."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2018, with the headline 'Lee boosted by long break'. Print Edition | Subscribe