Earlier this month, ONE crowned its inaugural female Atom weight champion in Asian MMA sensation Angela Lee, who won a hard-fought scrap with Japanese veteran Mei Yamaguchi, in what many believe is an early contender for the MMA fight of the year.
This capped off a spectacular run, which started a year back in Asia's biggest MMA promotion, which saw her power through to rake up the most coveted undefeated streak in female MMA today. A new, said to be among the biggest, MMA contract later Lee is among the biggest stars there is in the sport at present.
During her latest media rounds, Angela spoke with The Fan Garage in an India exclusive and shed light on various things that have been happening in this whirlwind of a career she's had so far.
TFG: Congratulations on becoming the youngest ever world champion in MMA history. That was one amazing, action-packed match against a solid, tough opponent. Could you describe the feeling in your words when the announcer read out your name as the inaugural ONE Atom weight champion?
Angela Lee: Thank you. When I heard my name, I was completely overcome by happiness. I felt nothing but bliss. It was the happiest moment of my life.
TFG: While you come from a family with deep roots in martial arts, could you tell us about your start in it and what styles did you train in before you transitioned into MMA? Is there any particular style that is your favorite?
AL: I have always been taught and trained in MMA as my primary style. It's basically the glue that seamlessly connects all ranges of combat and self-defense.
TFG: One of the things that really stood out in your performance in the title fight was that you displayed certain heart, patience, and determination that belies your age. At 19, you seem to have this uncanny poise usually associated with someone older and more experienced. What would you attribute that to?
AL: I attribute that to my upbringing. My parents and family have a huge impact on me and they are what shaped me into who I am today.
TFG: In your fight against Mei, you were dropped, hurt and in danger a few times throughout the fight. Was there any point where you felt like you could get finished or that you may lose?
AL: No. The whole time I was fighting, I had confidence and belief in myself. I was willing to do whatever it took to come out victorious.
TFG: You started off and have stayed with ONE championship right from the outset of your MMA career. Being from Hawaii, how did you come about choosing a largely Asian promotion to start your career in? How has the experience been with them so far and what do you feel sets ONE apart from the many North American MMA promotions that there are?
AL: My Dad, who is my head coach, did extensive research on multiple organizations before I signed with ONE Championship. I am very happy to be with ONE and I believe that they are the best MMA organization in the world. What sets them apart is that they are able to capture martial arts in its purest form and then share that with over a billion viewers worldwide.
TFG: You recently spoke about your desire to represent women in Asia with your role and career as a professional fighter at the top of your profession. What prompted you to adopt such a line of thought and in your time in Asia, what have you come to perceive the standing of women to be?
AL: There's a big responsibility that comes with being in the spotlight. I want to be a role model for young girls and women because I want to make a difference in this world. Especially in Asia, women's rights are far from ideal. I plan on doing my best to take part in breaking down the barriers of social norms and promoting gender equality.
TFG: At 19, having reached the pinnacle in your chosen profession, what are some of the short-term and long-term goals that you are looking to chase after?
AL: Even though I'm the champ now, I am still far from where I want to be. I want to be a legend in the sport and leave a legacy behind. I want to be known and remembered as one of the greatest martial artists of all time, male or female. There is still a lot of work to do but I am very excited for all that is to come!
TFG: Your brother and your whole family being deeply entrenched in martial arts, I am sure you had an entirely different upbringing than most. How did you find the growing up years to be different and what, if anything, did you ever feel like you missed out?
AL: I had a great childhood growing up. Sure, other kids might have had more time spent with their friends but I'd rather have that time with the ones I love most, my family.
TFG: Given your upbringing in Hawaii, how much can you relate to your Asian roots and which are some of the places you are keen to visit that you haven't had a chance to do so yet?
AL: My family and I are very proud of our heritage and culture. Martial Arts is one of the biggest ways we stay true to our Asian roots. I love traveling and there are so many places I wish to go but the top place on my list right now is Korea because I'm half Korean and it's a place I've never been before.
TFG: In closing, any message for your Indian fans and when can we see you here? Maybe a seminar or just a public speaking engagement highlighting the success of women in combat sports, organized by ONE?
AL: Thank you so much for all of your support! I would absolutely love to visit your country one day and would be honored to give a speech or hold a seminar!