Since debuting for ONE Championship as an 18-year-old, Angela Lee has been perhaps the biggest MMA star in Asia over the past half-decade.
With a professional record of 10-2, Lee has not fought since defending her ONE atomweight title over Xiong Jingnan on Oct. 13, 2019. Lee will have to wait a little longer for her next fight as she and her husband, fellow ONE fighter Bruno Pucci, recently announced that they are expecting their first child on April 2021.
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“I knew more than anything I wanted to become a mom and I wanted to have my own family and just be able to raise my kids the way my parents were able to raise us so it’s an amazing feeling,” Lee said of her pregnancy to KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “It’s all very exciting. We were so happy when we found out the news and we got to share it with my family and now the whole world knows.”
The 24-year-old Lee has defended her atomweight title four times during her ONE career. ONE has a Grand Prix tournament set for next year, with the winner facing Lee for the title upon her return in late 2021. The news came much to the chagrin of top atomweight contender Denice Zamboanga. Zamboanga has since clarified her stance on her personal Instagram account, but the tension between the two potential opponents appears to still be present.
“Obviously, the top contenders, the top contender Denice, she was upset and was calling for me to vacate my title,” Lee said. “They wanted to put both titles on the line. They wanted to say, ‘OK, the Grand Prix winner gets the Grand Prix belt and the atomweight world title,’ and I don’t think that’s right. I don’t think it’s a 2-for-1 deal, you know? A lot of hard work went into that belt and it’s not something that should be thrown in as a bonus.”
Ever since her first title victory over Mei Yamaguchi on May 6, 2016, Lee has steadily climbed to the top of the atomweight division and maintained her top spot thanks to her dedication to the craft. But for the next year or so, becoming a mother for the first times takes precedent.
“I’m gonna fight harder than ever to retain that title, so new motivation of course,” Lee said. “I’m gonna relax for now, try not to stress out and enjoy this pregnancy but also it’s gonna fire me up to get back and step in the cage again.
“This is the longest fight camp that I’ve ever had in my career. Nine months is a long time but at the same time, I feel like time is flying by. I talked to a lot of other moms were pregnant before and they said just enjoy the pregnancy, they miss being pregnant and they miss having big bellies so I’m definitely not gonna try to wish this time to go by fast. I feel like I’ve been wanting this for my whole life, but nothing really prepares you for it so I’m doing as much reading as I can, asking my mom and other family members for advice, but I have a really great support system around me.”