The MMA star opens up about her fears, music choices and pre-game rituals
Drop the name Angela Lee, and most folks would be in awe. After all, the 21-year-old Canadian-born American-Singaporean is still, defending World Champion — ever since her 2016 win where she clinched the ONE Women's Atomweight (115 lbs) Title. That was also the year where she became the youngest person to win a world title in MMA, leading to her current standing as one of the most inspiring and respected fights and instructors in our time. You'll find her training hard at Evolve MMA whenever she's in town.
You would think with a revered MMA fighter like Lee, nothing that could daunt her. But after a casual conversation with the fresh-faced beauty, we found that when she's not throwing her opponents to the ground, Lee (like all of us) has something that she's afraid of. Ahead of her fight to defend her Atomweight World Champion belt this week, Lee shares her pre-game rituals, favourite local eats and greatest fears.
Do you still get nervous before a fight? I get nervous before every single fight and every single match. I think it's only natural to get those butterfly feelings. If I didn't get them, I would be worried. My dad says being a little nervous is a good thing as it always keeps you on your toes.
Do you have a diet routine that you stick to? Yes I do, and I'm getting better at it. It's hard because I love food so much. I put my body through a lot, especially when it's nearing the time to fight. Of course, you have the obvious things like staying away from fried food, candies and sugars; but more specifically, it's about eating good food that's good for your body. That's going to help you train and recover better. I stick to a lot of simple things — salads, chicken breast, fish and vegetables (even though I don't really like vegetables).
Tell us some of your pre-game rituals. How do you psyche yourself up? Nothing too complicated. I usually get on the bus, put on my headphones, listen to some music and try to calm down — mainly because there's too much excitement involved in fighting. Whenever I get to the arena, my family is always around me, kind of like a big entourage. My mum, dad, brothers and sister — so I guess having them there is my pre-fight ritual.
You mentioned music — what do you usually listen to? I listen to a crazy variety of music — a lot of different genres. But mostly on the day of the fight, I'll listen to something that seems like the opposite of what people think I would usually listen to. I turn to really peaceful music. Living in Hawaii, there's a lot of island reggae music and that's what I listen to because it makes me happy. Until we go into the warm-up for the fight — that's when I switch on the motivational, thumping music.
You shuttle back and forth Hawaii and Singapore. What do you miss about Singapore when you are not in town? My family. But also the food is so amazing here. It's something I grew up eating, and it's part of my culture. I'm a sucker for satay and noodles. The noodle dishes here are amazing. My favourite has to be the dried fishball noodle with the soup on the side. I love the one from 85 Redhill.
You’re pretty intimidating while you’re in the cage. Is there anything you're afraid of? I am definitely afraid of cockroaches, especially those in Hawaii — they are huge and they fly. But to semi-answer, it is probably my family. Just because my mum and dad are such a big part of my life and I love them so much; I think my greatest fear would be if I were to ever disappoint them or let them down one day. So I always try and do my best to make them proud.
What would you be doing if you weren't a fighter? Oh my gosh, I don't even know. That's a hard one. I’m not even good at anything else besides fighting. Maybe because I love travelling and photography — something along those lines?
Speaking of travelling and how much you love it, where is one place in the world that you would love to go to and why? Because I travel a lot [as an MMA fighter], I haven't been able to travel much of it for leisure. It's either for fights or some kind of training. I've always wanted to go to Bali, which I've never been to yet.
What gives you strength? I’d say my family gives me strength. I definitely look to them in times of struggle and hardship. They are like my rock and anchor that keeps me afloat and sane. When times get tough, it is really nice to know that you have people to count on and that they are always going to have your back.