The last few years have not been easy for ONE Championship atomweight titleholder Angela Lee.
Although she was able to pick up a decision victory over Mei Yamaguchi in May of 2018, this victory was sandwiched between a harrowing 2017 car accident and a cancelled November, 2018 fight with ONE strawweight champ Xiong Jing Nan.
Given the the struggles she’s endured of late, it should come as no surprise that Angela Lee is tremendously excited for her rescheduled showdown with Xiong, which goes down at ONE: A New Era, in Tokyo, Japan on March 31.
“I am just dying to be in Japan right now,” Lee told BJPenn.com after a Saturday morning training session at United MMA on Oahu. “I can’t wait for fight week. It’s going to be a historic event and I’m super grateful and honored to be a part of it.”
As aforementioned, Lee was scheduled to move up in weight and fight Xiong Jing Nan in a bid for a second ONE Championship belt at ONE: Heart of the Lion on November 9. Regrettably, she was forced out of this contest just days ahead of time with a back injury.
“It was super unfortunate because we were so close to fight,” the atomweight champion explained. “We kind of just wrapped up the fight camp and then like late October, early November, I went in and got a MRI, got it checked out and found out my back was kind of messed up.”
By the time Angela Lee was forced to withdraw from her November bout with Xiong, she was already in Singapore. She was so gutted by this last-minute derailment that she couldn’t even bring herself to attend the event she was supposed to headline.
“I was so bummed out,” she said. “Everyone at the promotion, and the fans, they wanted me to come down and I just didn’t feel right. You know, I didn’t feel right coming down to Singapore to the arena without the being able to fight. It just made me even more motivated to work on my recovery and to heal up and get back in there as soon as I can.”
Today, Angela Lee is once again fighting fit, and less than two weeks away from her rescheduled showdown with Xiong Jing Nan. Though it has been almost a year since her last steps into the ONE Championship cage, she is not worried about ring rust as this mammoth challenge looms on the horizon.
“I feel like I’m sharper than ever right now,” she said confidently. “We’ve done so many drills, so many sparring rounds and I feel like I’m going to be able to show my best performance. It has been awhile. I only had one fight last year in 2018, so it’s kind of made me more hungry than ever to compete more frequently. After this fight I’m already going to move on to the next, just like that. I’m not going to waste my time. I’m just going to get in there and get the job done. Hopefully there are no injuries because I’m looking to stay active.”
While Angela Lee is hoping to kickstart a busy year with a huge victory over Xiong Jing Nan, that victory is not going to be an easy thing to acquire. Xiong is not only significantly bigger than Lee, but also a truly venomous boxer with paralyzing power in both hands.
All that being said, Lee feels well prepared for the challenge at hand.
“I think that she’s going to come out very aggressive and swinging,” Lee said of her upcoming foe. “She obviously has a boxing background, but being a world champion, I’m sure she’s rounding off the rest of her game too. I’m pretty sure that they studied me pretty well, but as much as they can study me, there’s nothing that they can do that can stop me. I feel like I have all the tools to shut her down in every single area and I think I’m just going to frustrate the hell out of her and she’s going to quit.
“I’m not one to be scared to stand in the pocket and trade with her if I need to,” Lee continued. “Obviously I’m not going to be a meathead… I’m going to take the fight where it needs to go it so that I can finish it the quickest without any injuries. That’s how it always should be. I’m not going to go in there and go the distance with her and then squeeze out a decision. I’m going to go in there and I’m going to finish the fight.”
Angela Lee is surrounded by top fighters in a way that few others are. Her brother Christian Lee and her husband Bruno Pucci are both ONE Championship fighters, and the pair have her feeling well-prepared for Xiong.
“I see my brother daily, I trained with him this morning,” she explained. “We’re always training cause we never know when the next call is going to come for a fight. So he’s always staying ready. In the afternoon and evening we actually teach the classes together and then train again. So really, I’m around him 24/7 and he’s one of the people that knows me the best and that’s why he’s always in my corner.
“Same thing for Bruno,” she continued. “He’s always staying ready for the next call for a fight. We all train together so it’s actually pretty cool. It’s a whole family affair and I’m so grateful and lucky that I’m able to spend so much time with my family.”
With her team and her family behind her, Angela Lee is confident she can leave Tokyo as the first woman in ONE Championship history to wear two titles concurrently.
“It’s going to be in the history books,” she said of this potential accomplishment. “As a fighter, it’s adding to my legacy, and I think that even though every fight is the most important fight of my life, this one is extremely significant because it’s really a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m definitely not going to let it pass me by. I’m gonna just prove everyone that this is meant to be. I really feel like this is what I was destined for.
“This is going to be a history making moment,” she added. “It’s a perfect fight for me to demonstrate what MMA is all about. To fans that are tuning in, they’re going to see a beautiful display of MMA at its finest and you know, I’m going to pretty much destroy this girl.”
Given the things she’s been forced to endure over the last few years — the accident, the cancelled fight, the layoff — a victory over Xiong Jing Nan is going to be an incredibly gratifying experience for Angela Lee.
She expects to leave Tokyo with a belt slung over each shoulder, and a huge smile plastered across her face.
“You’re going to see a big smile on my face for the rest of the trip,” she said. “I think that it’s going to be a really great moment. You know, I try not to build it up too much, but at the same time I really have to step back and see that this is a really significant moment and it helps me to realize how big it is, and to not let this opportunity go. I’m going to really try to live it up, try to enjoy it as much as possible. It’s more motivation to work even harder.”
Catch this compelling Angela Lee vs. Xiong Jing Nan showdown on March 31 on B/R Live in the United States.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 3/17/2019.