Asian MMA takes center stage
Angela Lee captures international attention as title defense looms
Angela Lee is yet to reveal whether or not the spotlight’s glare is starting to distract her. Outwardly at least.
So far the 20-year-old One Championship atomweight world champion has managed to keep resolutely focused on her title defense Friday night against the 24-year-old Brazilian Istela Nunes. It’s been an impressive effort given the fact Lee has been the prime focus of the One: Dynasty of Heroes card, and of the international mixed martial arts community itself.
All eyes are on Asia over the next few weeks – first with the Lee bout at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, and then when the same venue hosts the return of the Las Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Championship after an extended break.
“Honestly, all this media attention is crazy,” said Lee. “I still get blown away by it. But at the end of the day I still just feel like a normal girl. I don’t get too star struck. It’s all kinda nuts but I just stick to what I do best, which is training hard and fighting.”
Lee (7-0) will have needed to have done exactly that if she’s to overcome the threat posed by Nunes (5-0, one no contest). The Brazilian two-time world muay Thai champion has arrived in Singapore looking in fantastic shape and with her eye firmly fixed on taking the title in what will be just her second fight within the One organization.
Asked after Thursday night’s traditional pre-fight face-off what she had brought to town, Nunes replied: “Boom, boom, boom.”
“My fight game is to strike, and to knock my opponent down,” she said. “I would rather stand and fight than wrestle so that is what I plan to do.”
Last time out – in her first title defense – Lee showed she had been putting in the hours training up her own striking skills. She used them to dominate Taiwan’s Jenny Huang over three rounds – and said she was getting closer and close to a complete all-round game, even at this early stage of her career.
“I’m extremely confident going into this fight as I am going in to all my fights,” said Lee. “I’ve trained really hard and I’m just going to go out there and do what I love. With each fight it’s going to get tougher and tougher and that’s what I expect being the champion. But I train very hard and I know that I am in another class above these girls so I am not worried.”
The One organization has 10 fights planned for Friday night, with Lee-Nunes sharing top billing with the One welterweight world title fight between incumbent Ben Askren (15-0, one no contest) and challenger Agilan Thani (7-0) of Malaysia.
Askren is arguably the best wrestler to have ever made the shift to MMA, having represented USA at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and being a two-time NCAA champion. While Lee has grabbed the spotlight this week, the American has been promising to steal it for himself Friday night by following a simple fight plan against a rising Asian star in Thani: “I vow to walk across the mat, put Agilan on his back – and do everything I want to do.”
May 26 fight card kicks off at 7.30pm Hong Kong/Singapore Time (GMT+8).