SINGAPORE – Mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Victoria Lee was a “beautiful and precious soul” with the “purest heart of gold and a brilliant mind”, said One chief executive officer Chatri Sityodtong on Sunday, as tributes poured in for the 18-year-old, who died on Dec 26.
Victoria was the younger sister of One Championship atomweight and lightweight world champions Angela and Christian. Her death on Boxing Day in Hawaii was announced by Angela on Saturday – the cause was not stated.
“She has gone too soon and our family has been completely devastated since then,” said Angela in a post on Instagram. “We miss her. More than anything in this world. Our family will never be the same. Life will never be the same.”
A celebration of her life has been scheduled for Jan 22 before her burial.
Angela requested “grace and respect” for her family and urged everyone to “check on your loved ones”.
“Keep checking on them. Give them hugs and tell them how much they mean to you. You just never know,” she said.
Angela and Christian were born in Vancouver, Canada, and Victoria was born in Waipahu, a town in Hawaii, to Singaporean father Ken Lee and South Korean-Canadian mother Jewelz Lee.
Although they reside in the United States, the Lees, who are coached by their parents, fight under the Singapore flag.
Their youngest brother, Adrian Lee, 17, is also set to follow in his siblings’ footsteps, as he came out victorious in his first amateur MMA title fight held in Hawaii in December 2022.
In a statement on Sunday, One expressed shock at the news and said: “The One Championship team is devastated over the tragic passing of Victoria Lee... our most heartfelt condolences to her family and friends at this difficult time.”
One chief executive officer Chatri Sityodtong said he was “heartbroken” by the news.
“Victoria had the purest heart of gold and a brilliant mind. She looked after others before herself. She wanted to use her life to help the world. I will always remember Victoria for the beautiful and precious soul that she was,” he said.
Other MMA fighters have also paid tribute to the teenager on social media.
On Facebook, Myanmar fighter Aung La Nsang, another One champion, wrote: “My heart breaks for the Lee family. I have so much respect and admiration for them. The news of Victoria broke my heart.”
Indian fighter Ritu Phogat commented on Angela’s Instagram post, saying: “We are so sorry to hear this. Our deepest condolences... she was so young.”
Touted as one of the most promising MMA athletes in the world, Victoria made her debut at One’s Fists of Fury event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in February 2021, three months shy of her 17th birthday, beating Thai fighter Sunisa Srisen via a rear-naked choke before winning her next two fights, also through finishes.
In an interview before her debut, Victoria told The Straits Times that she would never face her elder sister in an MMA contest and was “not trying to chase her or break any records”.
“I’m just focusing on my own journey,” said the soft-spoken teenager, who graduated from Mililani High School in Hawaii last May.
She had not fought since Sept 21, 2021, when she defeated Brazilian Victoria Souza by technical knockout in Singapore. Her next bout was to be on Saturday against India’s Zeba Bano, 24, in Bangkok.
Prior to her professional MMA debut with One, Victoria had claimed the 2019 International Mixed Martial Arts Federation Junior World Championship, two Pankration Junior World Championships, and a 2019 Hawaii State Wrestling Championship. She was also a 15-time North American Grappling Association expert champion.
Before her debut, Victoria told ST she was thrilled she was making her bow in Singapore, where she has family members residing, adding: “Whenever we get to Singapore, after the weigh-ins, there’s a hit list that me and my family have… Chicken rice, bak kut teh, laksa, everything!”
In her post on Saturday, Angela described her younger sister as “the most beautiful soul who ever lived”.
“We miss you so much, sis. More than you could ever realise. We’re all broken. Because a piece of you was in each of us and, when you left, those pieces were ripped out of us.
“We will never be the same... You were our bright light. Our sunshine. And that will never change. We love you Victoria. I love you Sprout. Until the end of time,” she added.