Mixed martial arts (MMA) star Angela Lee's upcoming title defence has been cancelled after she was left concussed following a car accident on Monday.
Her Audi hit a guardrail on the highway, said her Singaporean father Ken Lee, who is also her trainer. The 21-year-old had been making the short drive from Mililani to the gym her parents run in Waipio, Hawaii, reported the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
"The axle snapped and the car flipped five to six times over 100 yards and landed on the opposite side of the highway, according to the police," Lee Sr said, when detailing the "very serious accident" in a Facebook post yesterday.
Chatri Sityodtong, chairman of fight promotion One Championship, which Lee represents, announced on Facebook that her Nov 24 bout against Japan's Mei Yamaguchi at the Singapore Indoor Stadium would be cancelled.
Last year, Lee had defeated the 34-year-old Japanese to lift the atomweight title and become the youngest MMA world champion.
In his post, Chatri said Lee suffered a concussion, minor burns and her body was "banged up" but she was expected to make a full recovery. He said photos showed the car she was driving was wrecked.
He added: "She was driving to her morning training at the gym when she fell asleep... If she was not wearing a seatbelt, it would have most certainly been a different story."
The revelation that Lee had fallen asleep at the wheel prompted criticism from some quarters.
But the elder Lee, who said the fighter was resting at home, defended his daughter, saying: "She was not drinking or speeding, she was heading into work at 5am on a very dark stretch of road that is notorious for accidents... Most hardworking individuals that drive into work at 5am have been tired while driving (knowing or unknowingly) at some point."
He also reminded drivers to be careful while on the road, noting that "everything can change in the blink of an eye".
ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL
She was not drinking or speeding... Most hardworking individuals that drive into work at 5am have been tired while driving (knowing or unknowingly) at some point.
KEN LEE, father of MMA fighter Angela, defending the alleged cause of the car crash involving his daughter.
Fans took to social media in droves to express concern and relief that she had not been seriously hurt and to wish her a quick recovery. But some also felt that Lee's withdrawal diminished the appeal of the Nov 24 event, branded as Immortal Pursuit by the organisers.
"I haven't bought tickets and personally I wouldn't now because Angela Lee's title defence was the main draw," said Akshay Raj, 16. "The fight was the main event and that's what people want to watch."
Lee has certainly had an eventful year. Besides retaining her title by defeating Brazilian Istela Nunes in May to stretch her unbeaten professional record to 8-0, she also announced her engagement to Bruno Pucci, a 27-year-old Brazilian fighter who also trains with her at Evolve gym, on Oct 22.
A One Championship spokesman said a replacement would likely be found for Lee on the nine-bout fight card for Nov 24, with Yamaguchi herself noting in a tweet that her weight reduction regimen is still ongoing.
She also wished Lee a speedy recovery. Posting in Japanese, she said: "We are looking for another fighter so there could be a match. To everyone who was looking forward to the fight (with Lee), I am very sorry.
"I hope Angela will recover soon."
The other headline act of the One: Immortal Pursuit card will see welterweight champion Ben Askren bid to end his career on a winning note against ex-world lightweight champion Shinya Aoki.
The bout between 22-year-old undefeated Singaporean Amir Khan and Australia's Adrian Pang will be moved up to the co-main event.