Angela Lee is all smiles after becoming the world's youngest-ever MMA champion at 19. (Photo: ONE Championship)
Mixed martial arts (MMA) sensation Angela Lee continued her meteoric ascent by winning the inaugural ONE Championship women’s atomweight world championship title on Friday (6 May) night.
The 19-year-old became the youngest-ever MMA world champion after beating Japanese veteran Mei Yamaguchi via unanimous decision in her first world title bout.
It was the main event of the nine-bout fight card, dubbed the Ascent to Power, which played out in front of a partisan 11,000-strong crowd at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
“I feel great right now, I can't even describe it; it's a dream come true!” Lee enthused. “The crowd was amazing, so thank you to everyone who came out and watched this fight.
“It's such an honour to be the youngest MMA world champion.”
Japanese fighter Mei Yamaguchi gave Angela Lee the toughest fight of her career and was gracious in defeat afterwards. (Photo: ONE Championship)
The battle went the full five rounds - her previous longest fight lasted only 3mins26s - as the 33-year-old Yamaguchi gave Lee her toughest fight since the latter turned professional one year ago.
It extended Lee’s unblemished record to 6-0 and she credited her years of training in both Hawaii and Singapore for helping her deal with the pressure surrounding her biggest fight to date.
“I definitely felt a lot of emotions and energy going into this but like I said before, this is the most calm I've ever been before a fight,” she asserted. “It's kind of weird, but I'm really glad I took a lot of time to prepare for this fight and I think that's what really helped me.”
Competing under Singapore’s flag, Lee was regarded as the favourite but had to withstand a spirited showing from her opponent, including a heavy overhand right that floored her at the start of the third round.
She recovered in subsequent rounds to get the edge over Yamaguchi and eventually convinced the judges to award her victory.
“It was really tough going in there,” she recalled. “I put my heart on the line. I wanted to end it early but I was definitely prepared to go the distance.
“Of course, it was not the game plan to come out (and win) with the decision but we are going to win the fight in any way possible; if it doesn't go your way, you just got to adapt and finish the fight.”
Watch Angela Lee's post-fight media interview.
Lee eyes more glory
Yamaguchi graciously admitted that the decision was a “fair” one and believes great things are in store for Lee, a Canadian-American citizen of Singapore-Korean ethnicity.
“She’s a really good grappler and she is going to learn more on her feet too,” she said. “I think she will be the toughest fighter in the world.”
The triumph reaffirmed Lee’s status as one of MMA’s fastest-rising stars and she is already looking forward to creating more history - whatever may come.
“I'm always looking to improve my game and who knows [about the future]?” she said. “I don't think there is a simultaneous two- division world champion - that sounds kind of cool!
“I'd fight anyone, any day anywhere, anytime. I'm always looking to improve myself and I know there are a lot of really skilful and young and talented fighters who are up and coming [but] anyone [is fine] - I don't care.”
It was a good night for the Lee family as younger brother Christian, 17, who made his professional debut last December, extended his record to 4-0. He beat the Philippines’ Cary Bullos, 32, with a D'arce choke submission win just 2min 7sec into the first round.
The crowd were also treated to victories by the other two Singaporeans fighting on the night, as Benedict Ang and Amir Khan both finished off their opponents by ground-and-pound.
In the night’s co-main event, Brazilian jiu-jitsu master Roger Gracie had no trouble taking out previously undefeated Michal Pasternak to win the inaugural ONE light heavyweight world championship. He needed just 2min11s to win by submission - via arm-triangle choke - against the Polish fighter.
Watch video highlights from ONE FC 42