Angela Lee has been watching her division grow while sitting on the sidelines.
The reigning ONE Championship 115-pound Atomweight champion became a mother in the past two years since last competing. As Lee has remained the titleholder throughout the process, it left naysayers questioning why the Vancouver, BC, Canada native wasn’t stripped of that status.
Though no interim crown was officially created, Lee argues that the grand prix title is essentially the same thing.
“It was frustrating, honestly,” Lee told MMAMania.com. “But at the same time, I didn’t want to direct any of my energy towards people like that. Because you’re gonna have people hating on you in every aspect. At the end of the day, I just don’t want to waste my energy trying to defend something that I really shouldn’t even have to in the first place. I think that I’m only human. Of course, I’m going to get worked up and upset when someone keeps asking me stupid questions over and over. I try my best to stay professional.
“In this case, there’s wasn’t an interim title because there was the grand prix tournament. In that sense, that is kind of the interim champion or this is the grand prix champion, Stamp [Fairtex]. Now we’re gonna be ‘unifying’ in a sense if that’s how they want to look at it.”
Thailand’s Stamp Fairtex started 2021 on the wrong foot with her first career MMA loss. Rebounding with three straight wins after the fact, she would make up for it by winning the ONE Atomweight grand prix to earn her shot against the returning champion.
The 25-year old Lee (10-2) feels she’s in her best physical shape ever — an admitted surprise considering how much motherhood changes the body. Nerves are definitely present and expected to be a challenge, but the Hawaii resident is used to the spotlight with four title defenses already achieved — the last being atop ONE’s biggest event.
ONE: X on Mar. 26, 2022, sees Lee once again dominating the spotlight as she and Stamp cap off the promotion’s 10-year anniversary celebration.
“There’s a lot of pressure because it’s going to be a huge card and my first fight back in a little bit over two years,” she said. “But for me, there’s always so much on the line with each fight. Each fight is a huge fight and with Stamp, I think everyone’s looking forward to it because it’s kind of been a matchup in the making for a few years now. She has a ton of accomplishments being a former Muay Thai and kickboxing world champion.
“It would be foolish to just label her as just the striker because right now I see her as a mixed martial artist. She has been working hard to round off her game for the past few years.”
With the Lee family continuing to grow outside of the cage, there’s been plenty of growth within it as well.
Angela’s younger brother Christian remains in the title picture as a former Lightweight champion. On the other hand, there’s the 17-year old Victoria who has yet to even graduate from high school. Regardless, she’s already 3-0 inside the ONE cage.
“I still feel like it’s the beginning for us,” Angela said of her siblings. “But we have accomplished so much and I think a huge part of that is just the way that our family works. How we’re all very supportive of each other. We’re in the room training with each other on a daily basis. Whenever we’re traveling for the fights, we’re all going together. To be a unit like that, I think that’s what makes us very strong. And we’re all focused on our individual paths. I think that’s very important, too. It’s not about one-upping each other or who can get to this faster or who can do this better. We’re each very focused on what we want to accomplish but very supportive of each other and the paths that we are taking individually.”