Angela Lee was just 18 years old and under a year removed from graduating from Mililani when she made her professional mixed martial arts debut in the renowned ONE Championship, the biggest MMA organization in Asia.
At 19, she became the youngest world champion in women’s MMA history when she defeated Mei Yamaguchi on May 6, 2016 to win the ONE Women’s atomweight belt. Since then, Lee has successfully defended her atomweight title four times.
Lee, who turns 24 in July, remains one of Asia’s biggest combat sports stars with a sizeable social media following to match. She has used her platform to bringing issues such as cyberbullying and racial inequality to light. Following the suicide of Japanese wrestling star Hana Kiuma, who passed away at 22 years old, Lee took to Instagram to expand on the seriousness of cyberbullying.
“It really caught my attention and honestly, when I heard the news I was so sad,” Lee told KHON2’s Rob DeMello. “I was just really down because I totally know how it feels to be in that position in the early stages of my career and learn how to deal with it and filter through good criticism and bad criticism and stupid comments. It’s definitely something that should be talked about more.”
As she continues to use her platform for good, Lee and her husband, fellow ONE Championship fighter Bruno Pucci, aim to open the United Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Center in Wahiawa. United BJJ was slated for a June 1 opening, but restrictions surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have moved those plans back to Aug. 1 instead.
When it does open, Lee hopes that her business endeavor can bring joy to every fighter than comes through United BJJ’s doors.
“Bruno and I, we love martial arts and martial arts has always been there for us. Through the good times, through the bad times and everything,” Lee said. “Training is so beneficial for anyone, really. Because if you’re having a bad day, training’s there. It’s a good outlet to release all that tension, that bad energy. If you’re having a good day, you can still train, have a great time, share it with your teammates and stuff so we just really wanna have this environment, have this little community where people can feel safe, people can feel like it’s their home.
“As soon as we get the green light, then we’re definitely gonna be opening our doors and we look forward to meeting a lot of these students.”
As for what’s next for her in ONE, Lee (10-2) has not fought since a submission victory over Xiong Jingnan on Oct. 19, 2019. Lee does not have a solidified date for her next fight due to the pandemic, but she’ll be prepared for whenever that may be.
“I’ve still been trying to stay healthy and just stay ready for whenever the time is right. I’ll be 100 percent ready to go,” she said. “I’ve been keeping my weight ready to go, staying fit, strength and conditioning, and I’m just really eager to get back in there.”
For more on how to prevent cyberbullying, click here.