For those who may not know her, Angela Lee looks like any other 20-year-old Asian woman. She takes selfies, cuddles with her dog, goes to the beach, and even slays in heels.
But Lee is also the world’s youngest MMA champion — and undefeated at that. At 19, she won the inaugural ONE Championship (ONE) women’s atomweight title, which reportedly made her among the highest-paid female fighters in the history of any MMA organization.
The 5-foot 4-inch fighter recalled the May 2016 match against Japan’s Mei Yamaguchi (via CNN):
“I owe (the win) to my preparation and my training for the fight but also I was very happy that I was able to overcome all those doubts and insecurities that I had and come out victorious. It was a very emotional moment for me.”
To immortalize the moment, Lee had her forearm tattooed with a pocket watch that showed the date and time of her victory. “I’m a very sentimental person,” she said.
Now, Lee trains in Bangkok for her upcoming match against Taiwan’s Jenny Huang. She shared her outlook on the event:
“I think that it’s really important because I’m competing in Southeast Asia and in these countries I understand that a lot of women don’t have the same opportunities the men do.”
The Canadian fighter was born to a Singaporean father and a South Korean mother, both of whom happened to be martial arts instructors and competitors themselves. Her younger siblings also practice martial arts, making them a family of fighters.
Lee said she has been training since she could walk and attributed her apparent success to her parents’ help. She recalled of her father:
“Growing up with my dad, I was able to learn all those styles and incorporate them into the new style of MMA that is fought today. (I learned to use) everything from striking, boxing, kickboxing and Muay Thai to things like wrestling and judo on the ground. I think that’s the beautiful thing about this sport. It’s constantly forcing you to evolve and improve in all areas.”
Meanwhile, Lee said her mother taught her to be independent and strong:
“Growing up with my mom as a martial arts instructor, and also the additional values that I learned from mixed martial arts, really shaped me into the kind of person I am today.”
Lee defends her title against Huang in Bangkok on March 11.