MMA champion Angela Lee embraces being a role model in her return to the ring after motherhood

Angela Lee’s name has been synonymous with mixed martial arts since she became the first ONE Championship female atomweight champion at age 19.

But over the past two years, her life has shifted from battling adversaries to wrestling with the responsibilities of being a new parent.

She didn’t want it any other way.

Lee and her husband Bruno Pucci decided to start a family and the decision led to his prolonged absence from the cage. Her last fight was on October 13, 2019 when she submitted Xiong Jing Nan with a rear choke to retain her Atomic Weight crown.

Lee will return to action on Saturday at the Singapore Indoor Stadium as she takes on Stamp Fairtex in the main event of ONE X – the culmination of the promotion’s 10th anniversary celebrations.

Lee landed in Singapore on Monday with her daughter Ava – now ten months old – in tow. Lee couldn’t hide her joy at being able to do what she loves again, but now with her young family by her side.

“I’m so excited – it’s been a long time and I’ve missed it,” she told ESPN. “I love that feeling of coming here fight week, going through the photo ops and the press conferences and the weigh-ins, and of course Saturday night will be the icing on the cake when I get to get in the cage and m have fun again.

“I’ve taken the last two years to become a mother. Being a mother is the most selfless job in the world and being a fighter is all about focusing on yourself, so balancing and juggling those two has been really key. of all the preparation.”

For Lee, who fights under the flag of Singapore but is based in Hawaii, the fact that her comeback will take place during Women’s History Month is a coincidence that has not escaped her notice.

“When I was younger, I didn’t celebrate Women’s History Month. I didn’t do the research or understand the importance, but now, especially as I fight for ONE and have this platform, I know how important what I have is what I do is,” Lee said. “As a woman, and now a mother, I’m proud of what I do and hope it inspires other women, mothers or young girls, because it’s hard work and it should be celebrated.

“Life is about more than fighting and I was given this job where hundreds of thousands of girls and young women around the world know my name and my story. It’s powerful. I feel that I have a responsibility to share my truth, my story and my journey with them and not just the highlights, I want to take them through the ups and downs, the good and the bad, because this is real life.

And while she now has so much more that defines her other than just being an MMA champion, Lee’s target when she returns to the cage on Saturday will quite poignantly bring her full circle back to her original motivation when she started this journey with her first fight. in 2015.

“100% I will remind everyone who I am,” the 25-year-old said. “I’m the first division champion, the first-ever female ONE champion – and that’s something special.

“There were a lot of fighters that came in and I haven’t been as busy (fighting) as I would have liked, obviously because I’m taking care of my daughter and raising my family. I think people have forgotten what I am capable of.

“If anything, [being a mother] makes it all the more clear what my goal is and what I need to do, because I really feel those maternal instincts and it will show when I fight. There’s a threat in front of me and behind me is my family, and I’m doing everything in my power to protect my family, so I think that just makes it easier.

“Having a reason that is bigger than you is very powerful. Knowing that I have my family here with me makes me feel good.”

Rebecca R. Santistevan