Angela Lee had a minor back and forth with a reporter during ONE Championship’s Lee family virtual media day.
The 10-2 ONE atomweight champion recently became a mother which has kept her sidelined for all of 2021. On Tuesday, a Philippino media member asked Lee during the media day about how “real champions” typically defend their titles once or twice a year, wondering why Lee only was allowed to take a “two-year vacation” because she’s the “ONE poster girl.”
“Well, I disagree with that,” Angela Lee responded. “First of all, these aren’t normal times. There’s a global pandemic going on, which has made it difficult to host a lot of events. It’s been hard for everyone around the world. Second of all, I do think what Chatri [Sityodtong, ONE Chairman and CEO] did make a statement for everyone. It’s not because I’m the poster girl. It’s because this is just a given right. I worked so hard to get to the position I’m at, and just because I get pregnant and I want to have a baby that I shouldn’t be stripped of my title, something that I worked towards.
“I think that ONE Championship has showed that this is kind of what the standard should be. A woman gets pregnant in her work, she’s supported and she has a job to come back to afterward. I think that I’m very lucky, of course, and I know that it’s going to come with a lot of criticism and hate but I know how hard I worked for this, and I’m not just going to have that taken from me.”
The media member pressed on by countering Lee’s response pointing out that the “practical standard” is to defend titles once or twice a year using her brother Christian, the ONE lightweight champion, as an example.
Bringing morals into the mix, the media member continued by asking if “it ever occurred to take the high road” and vacate her title.
“And who would fight for it?” Angela Lee said. “Denice [Zamboanga] is so-called the number one contender. Who would she fight? There was no one else in the division. There was an atomweight Grand Prix that was supposed to be happening, and it was planned before I even announced I was pregnant. Who would she fight? I think it’s ridiculous!
“If I was stripped of my title and there was going to be an interim championship, who would Denice fight? I don’t think that you or me have a say in what this organization does. So let’s leave it up to the people who actually run the company.”
To finish, the media member ignored Lee’s pregnancy entirely by suggesting she could have fought the Philippines’ Denise Zamboanga before the atomweight Grand Prix began.
Angela Lee last fought when successfully defending her title for the fourth time in October 2019 — a big champion vs champion rematch with strawweight titlist Xiong Jing Nan. At age 19, Lee made history by becoming the youngest fighter to ever hold a title in a major MMA promotion.
This past Friday, ONE kicked off their eight-woman 115-pound atomweight world Grand Prix which will decide the next contender for Lee. The previously undefeated Zamboanga suffered her first career defeat via split decision when taking on former RIZIN super atomweight champion Seo Hee Ham.