Mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Angela Lee announced her retirement from the sport in a teary farewell on Saturday at the One Fight Night 14 event held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
The 27-year-old current One atomweight champion has not fought since October 2022, when she lost a strawweight world title fight to China’s Xiong Jingnan at the same venue.
One chief executive Chatri Sityodtong had previously hinted that Lee might hang up her gloves following the sudden death of her younger sister Victoria, 18, in December 2022.
Fighting back tears, Lee placed her championship belt in the middle of the cage before saying: “I am here today to officially announce my retirement. It has been an incredible eight years and I just want to say thank you to the fans, to One Championship.
“There have been many battles in and out of the cage. To the fighters and everyone else, the greatest battle you will ever face is not the opponent but it is within ourselves. We all go through struggles, we all fight and each day we are victorious. we face up to adversity.”
She is married to Brazilian jiu-jitsu athlete Bruno Pucci and is mother to two-year-old Ava. Both were waiting for her as she stepped out of the cage and all three shared an emotional hug.
Nicknamed “Unstoppable”, Lee retires with a 11-3 record in One. Just before she came out for her announcement to the sound of The Script’s Hall of Fame and a thunderous applause, a highlight reel of her career played on the multiple screens inside the arena.
Lee then appeared on the jumbotron and was visibly emotional. Tears flowed down her face as she made her final walk down to the ring with her atomweight title on her shoulders.
Born in Canada to a Singaporean dad and South Korean mum, Lee rose to prominence in Asia’s largest mixed martial arts promotion, One Championship, where she fought under the Singapore flag.
Lee made her professional MMA debut in 2015 at the age of 18 and quickly rose through the ranks in the women’s atomweight division, thrilling fans and impressing analysts with her expertise in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, and striking technique.
In May 2016, she became the youngest MMA world champion at just 19 when she defeated Mei Yamaguchi to win the inaugural One women’s atomweight world championship.
Her attention will now be focused on her non-profit charity Fightstory, which she launched in July. Fightstory is dedicated to inspiring hope and building a community for those struggling with mental health. In a recent interview with The Straits Times, Lee said her charity was inspired by late sister and her own mental health struggles.
While MMA enthusiasts will no longer be able to catch Angela in action, the Lee legacy will be continued by her brother, Christian, 25, who is currently One’s lightweight and welterweight champion. Chatri had told ST recently that Christian would make his return in early 2024 while he also shared that he expected the youngest Lee sibling, Adrian, 17, to join One in the future.
Saturday’s One Fight Night 14 event drew near-capacity crowd despite the programme beginning around 8 am to coincide with American prime time. Lee’s star power was still apparent as hundreds of fans turned up pre-event at 7am for a meet and greet session with her.
Lightweight Amir Khan, the only Singaporean fighter involved on Saturday, lost via a third round knockout to Eduard Folayang of the Philippines.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.