Reigning ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion “Unstoppable” Angela Lee isn’t sitting on her couch at home in Hawaii just waiting for someone to be crowned at the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix.
In fact, like the World Champion that she is, the 25-year-old is already deep in training, getting ready to face the overall tournament winner in her first atomweight World Title defense since 2019.
Lee hasn’t been seen in action since a fifth-round submission victory over rival “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan that same year. A huge part of that has to do with the pandemic, which has made logistics undoubtedly difficult, but also because she became a mother for the very first time. Lee announced she was pregnant with her first child in mid-2020, which has since kept her out of action.
In her absence, however, the women’s atomweight division in ONE has been thriving.
Early in September, ONE Championship hosted a historic all-female event dubbed ONE: EMPOWER, which featured eight of the world’s best atomweight talents in a single-elimination tournament. At stake was a shot at Lee’s atomweight belt.
Needless to say, Lee enjoyed all the action that went down.
“I thought all of the bouts were very exciting,” Lee said of the Grand Prix.
“I think the fight that stood out to me the most was Stamp [Fairtex] versus [Alyona] Rassohyna. I thought it was a very exciting and competitive fight. I was really looking forward to it, especially because the first one was very exciting. I think that both ladies knew what to expect from each other and they brought their A-game.”
The aforementioned Stamp Fairtex bagged a close split decision over Alyona Rassohyna to book her spot in the semifinal round of the tournament. On the other hand, Indian wrestling powerhouse Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat overcame a spirited effort from dangerous Chinese veteran Meng Bo.
It was Phogat’s most significant victory to date, and Lee was more than ecstatic for her Evolve MMA teammate’s achievement.
“I think that the durability of Ritu [Phogat] stood out to me. Obviously, she was able to weather the storm. Meng Bo was going for the knockout and she was able to take her down and control her and come out with the win, so I thought that was pretty impressive,” Lee said.
The next round of the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix goes down on 29 October, at ONE: NEXTGEN. Stamp is ready to face Grand Prix alternate Julie Mezabarba, who fills in for an injured Seo Hee Ham, while Phogat battles undefeated Japanese judoka Itsuki “Android 18” Hirata.
Lee is high on both Stamp and Phogat, and believes the pair have what it takes to make it through to the final round. However, the Hawaii resident also says not to overlook anyone in the tournament.
“I think there’s a high chance that Stamp and Ritu will end up being in the finals together and they both have their strengths, as well as their weaknesses. And it’s funny because they’re both kind of opposite fighters. Stamp is obviously the striker, and Ritu is the wrestler. But yeah, with that being said, don’t count anyone out,” Lee said.
“I’m aware of their strengths, but at the same time, I’m already strategizing and seeing what my game plan will be if I were to face them. So yeah, just constantly thinking about that.”
The ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix is expected to come to a conclusion before the year ends. Lee is back at the family gym at home in Hawaii, balancing her career as a professional mixed martial artist while fulfilling mommy duties to daughter Ava Marie.
But you can bet she’s fully focused on returning to her championship form to face the winner of the tournament next year.
“My training is going great. I’m really feeling like myself again and I’m so lucky that I’m able to train full time alongside my sister, Victoria. She’s been doing great. Yeah. As this tournament goes on, it just gets me more fired up to get back into the cage,” Lee said.
“As this tournament is coming closer to an end, I’m just getting more fired up to get back in the cage and I can’t wait to come back.”
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