“Unstoppable” Angela Lee has overcome a lot of adversity in recent years.
The unbeaten Singaporean hero had to deal with some nagging injuries after capturing the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Championship in May 2016, and then successfully battled through a bout of pneumonia to defeat top contender Istela Nunes one year later.
However, the most severe threat to her career – and her life – came at the end of 2017, when she had an incredibly lucky escape from a huge car crash.
In November 2017, Lee was preparing for her world title rematch against Japan’s Mei “V.V.” Yamaguchi at ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT in Singapore.
She was finishing her training camp at her family’s gym, United MMA in Waipahu, Hawaii, and was putting in extra work to promote the card. It soon became apparent she had overextended herself.
Atat 5am on Monday, 7 November, calamity struck.
“I was driving to the gym extra early,” she begins.
“I was really sleepy, and was not paying attention [to the road] for a split second, and then my car rolled over a bunch of times.”
The car was completely wrecked, but Lee miraculously escaped without critical injuries – just a concussion and a couple of bruises.
She was understandably ruled out of the ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT main event, but still flew to Singapore to support some of her teammates, and fulfil some media obligations.
However, she did not act like her typical, fun-loving self.
Lee still felt the psychological effects of the car accident. She was emotionally drained, mentally exhausted, and upset she could not compete at the event.
“Everyone was like, ‘Why is it so tough? Why are you crying so much?’ It is a lot to take in when you are not in the best state of mind,” she explains.
What “Unstoppable” really needed was some time away from the spotlight to re-center herself. Once the event was over, she disappeared from the public eye.
Lee spent Christmas with her family in Hawaii, and then traveled to Singapore to celebrate New Year. Her mind was away from the cage and the mats, and strictly with her loved ones.
It wasn’t until January that she took her first steps back into the gym.
“It was so hard to go back into training in the beginning, because I felt very weak. I could not even step on the mat without crying,” she reveals.
“But with the support from my family, everyone banded together. My family says that when one person is weak, everyone else has to be strong to help lift them up.”
Just as her father Ken has preached ever since she was a little girl, the family functions as a unit.
The 21-year-old started getting back into her groove in February. She was awarded her black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu alongside her brother Christian that month, and then flew out to Malaysia in March to see him face two-division DEEP Champion Kazunori Yokota at ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY.
“That (seeing Christian win) is what got me fired up again, to step back inside the cage,” Lee states. “That is when I felt back to normal, and things were okay again.”
Lee has been sharpening her skills for her return this Friday, 18 May. The long-anticipated rematch with Yamaguchi will finally happen at ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS in Singapore.
While Lee is excited to defend the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Championship again, she views her most recent hardship as a blessing in disguise.
“Unstoppable” maintained a busy schedule since she won the world championship two years ago – traveling all over the world, fulfilling media obligations, and training constantly.
Her accident caused her to press pause on her career and take time to recover. Now, she feels empowered by the way she has moved on, and her example of overcoming a traumatic experience can be an inspiration to others.
“I have grappled with so much doubt, negativity, and depression – it was a lot to deal with,” Lee says.
“Sometimes, you are just used to being strong all the time and having to put up this face to the world that everything is okay. But sometimes, it is not, and sometimes you just need to take that time to fix things and to heal things. You cannot rush it. It takes time, but eventually, everything will be okay.
“I will not shy away from talking about my adversities anymore because I did not let them win. I did not stay down there. I rose above it, and now I am here today, and about to fight again.”