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Angela Lee on dropping down a division to challenge for inaugural ONE atomweight title

Angela Lee is dropping down a division to challenge for the first title of her pro career at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on May 6, 2016. At ONE: "Ascent to Power" the 19-year-old phenom will be fighting Mei Yamaguchi for the organization's inaugural atomweight title.

The winner will earn the right to call themselves the first ever female ONE Championship champion but for Lee it represents something of a step into the unknown because all her fights to date have been in the strawweight division, or even slightly higher.

By contrast Yamaguchi has been competing at atomweight for several years and recently won the Deep-Jewels title in that division, claiming the strap by way of an eight-woman tournament. She has approximately five times as many fights as Lee but the Singaporean-Korean is not intimidated by her opponent's experience.

"I have done my research on Mei and I think her greatest strength will be her experience and her confidence. However, I know that Mei has never fought anyone like me before. I am a completely different fighter then what she's use to and I bring a whole new set of challenges that she's never seen before," Lee said.

Lee also says she will have no issue getting down to the right walking weight in order to pass all the ONE Championship checks (see here for explanation).

"Technically this is my first ever fight at atomweight as all my other fights have been at strawweight or at a catchweight.  My walking weight is 120 pounds so it will be an easy diet to go down to 115 pounds."

To compete in ONE Championship's atomweight division Lee needs to show that her walking weight is 115 pounds or less while as a strawweight her walking weight can be up to 125 pounds. She's confident she can compete in both divisions and won't rule out moving up again in the future.

"Because my walking weight is right in the middle of the atomweight and strawweight division, I feel that both of those are my natural divisions."

Lee lives and trains in Singapore where she is a member of the fight team at Evolve MMA. It makes her May 6th title shot particularly special.

"Winning the title in Singapore and becoming their first world champion will be a dream come true for me. I'm not just winning this belt for myself. I'm winning it for my family, my friends, my teams and for Singapore."

Yamaguchi is 14 years the senior of Lee and has a clear advantage in terms of experience. She's already a veteran of several atomweights but the teenager doesn't think this will necessarily play in her opponent's favor.

"I don't see that as an advantage for her. That just means that she's used to fighting smaller girls. I've fought girls at 115, 120, and 125 pounds in my MMA career so if anything, I'll be the one with the advantage."

Yamaguchi won titles at 115 pounds early in her career and has faced some of the most famous female fighters around including Emi Fujino and Ayaka Hamasaki. However, she is a couple of inches shorter than Lee, as the teenager discovered first hand when they faced off for a recent photo shoot in Singapore.

It means the Singaporean-Korean spent a lot of time in close proximity to her next opponent but Lee feels this is just part of the sport.

"It wasn't strange for me. I'm always professional with all of my opponents and I don't let my emotions get involved. It's strictly business, I don't feel a need to 'hate' my opponents. If you respect me, I will respect you. I feel like the respect between me and Mei is mutual."

For Lee training is more often than not a family affair because she works out alongside her brother Christian, who will also be fighting at ONE: "Ascent to Power." Their Father, Ken, is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) black belt and the three of them have also enlisted the help of the Evolve MMA fighters and trainers.

"For this fight camp I will be training entirely in Singapore with my head coach and Dad, Ken Lee, coach Heath Sims, Kru No and Kru Yod. I'm also lucky to have awesome teammates to work with such as my Brother, Christian Lee, Alex Silva, current men's strawweight champ, Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichok, and Leandro 'Brodinho' Issa."

It is a dream team which she helps will give her the impetus to become the first ever female champion with Asia's biggest MMA promotion. A highly experienced and well decorated opponent stands in her way but Lee believes that on May 6th it is youth that will prevail.

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