Although the world is full of young female athletes like Toni Harris who have started their ascent to fulfill their potential as athletic competitors and role models for women, there are already numerous women who have already established themselves in their sports. 22-year-old Angela Lee is a young inspiration who has already claimed national and international titles.
Lee was born in Canada to Ken and Jewelz Lee, two MMA fighters from China and Korea respectively. She and her three siblings were introduced to the sport at a very young age, and Angela began competing by the age of six. When she was seven, her family moved from Canada to Hawaii, and her father ended his career as a real estate agent to open United MMA & Fitness Centre-Oahu as soon as he realized that his kids were taking the sport seriously. Her father, who has been her one and only coach to date, taught Lee and her siblings to focus on defense when fighting and trained Lee throughout all of her schooling. In her interview with ONE Championship, Lee said that she “grew up in the gym,” and this fact taught her not to fear the risks of fighting.
"I've always been pretty fearless when it comes to [getting hurt]. I just do it and deal with the consequences later," she says. Lee knows that the referee will make sure that no one is fatally injured. She puts all of her trust in the sport and its rules to keep her safe. MMA fighting seems to be based more on skill and technique than regular boxing. It isn’t about breaking your competitor with brute force but more about how you approach each situation.
Lee dropped out of the University of Hawaii-West Oahu to go pro at eighteen-years-old, after only three amateur matches. In 2014, she signed with One Championship, a Singaporean MMA league, as an atomweight fighter and made her debut against Aya Sabar in May of 2015. At One Championship, she established herself swiftly. In 2015, she pulled a “twister submission” against Natalie Gonzales Hills. The tricky move was a first for One Championship, and although her official nickname is “Unstoppable,” she quickly became known as “Twister Girl.”
In 2016, Angela Lee accomplished her biggest success to date. She defeated Mei Yamaguchi in One Championship: Ascent to Power and claimed the title of the Youngest MMA champion. She has since defended this astounding feat two years in a row. Her accomplishment has made her one of the highest paid women in the MMA and supposedly one of the top five highest paid fighters in her organization, regardless of gender.
However, the most unique thing about Angela Lee, however, is her family. She comes from a family of six, her brother Christian (19) has followed her to One Championship and her two younger siblings (age 13 and 11) seem to be following her path. Her mother and father are both experienced MMA athletes, and they support her in all her endeavors. Her father is her only coach, and Lee says that that will never change. Her mother, siblings and sometimes grandparents come to her matches, not to mention her boyfriend, who is an MMA fighter as well. She jokes that her entourage is unique from her competitors, and these supporters reinforce her strengths every day.
Just a few years ago, Asian culture used to frown on MMA fighting as a whole. In addition, to be a woman competing in a mixed martial art fight is still a new concept to most older generations. Women are looked at as aggressive when we are angry and as dramatic when we show emotion. When a woman dreams of competing in a male-dominated competition, people say she is looking at an unachievable fantasy. Lee and all women who fight (on a box ring, on the field, in the office, in the classroom, etc.) are brave enough to face the contempt and disdain before they have been uttered and follow their dreams without caring about the opinions of others. Angela Lee is a fierce competitor and a valiant woman who has the guts.