How ONE Champion Angela Lee Came Back from the Brink

The atomweight champ gets back on track after one hellish slump.


At the start of 2019, Angela Lee was on top of the world.

The 23 year old was undefeated and riding high on four straight defences of her atomweight title. The last of these had come after surviving a horrendous car crash after falling asleep at the wheel of her Audi on the way to a morning training session.

The unstoppable face of the promotion was ready to make headlines again as she made the move up to strawweight to face Chinese champion Xiong Jingnan. A victory would make her the first female dual division champ in One’s history and increase her already enormous profile.

We have been training for Jingnan for a while now and I think her style and my style match up perfectly. And I believe that we are both very aggressive, forward pressure fighters and we are going to be in the middle in that cage on Sunday night and we are going to see what happens.

What happened was a fight every bit as good as fans had hoped. Lee managed to establish her brutal ground game and came within a tendon’s width of securing the finish in the fourth round. But eventually, Xiong’s masterful striking took its toll and, Lee was finished only 90 seconds before the clock was.

The loss definitely hurt and made me just re-think everything. When I finally came back to the gym I decided I'm far from over, and you know, I just got to find this motivation to get back in there, to improve and to grow and to learn and I think this is, that's what this whole journey is about.

Not one to take an easy follow-up, Lee booked her next fight against the most decorated female BJJ competitor on the planet, Michele Niccolini. Unfortunately for Lee her best wasn’t enough. Although Lee managed to end the fight in a superior position, the Brazilian prodigy’s experience was enough to take the decision. It was a new low for the young fighter.

Right now, I feel pretty shitty honestly. I don't feel too good, I am pretty disappointed in myself. I wish it would have been a better night, but like I said earlier, this is a fight game and you never know what kind of day you gonna have, unfortunately today wasn't a great day.

But the life of a star fighter can be difficult. When One booked it’s biggest ever card, One Century, a few months later and it needed big-name fights, Lee had little choice but to rematch her nemesis Xiong Jingnan.

This time Xiong was coming down a division to challenge for Angela’s belt. And this time the outcome was different. Lee was able to take the Chinese striker to the mat and dictate terms. Eventually taking her back and doing what she had failed to do last time, locking in the submission in the fifth round.

In her final fight of 2019, Lee was back where she wanted to be and, with the atomweight title firmly over her shoulder, is now able to look forward to 2020 with all of the hope that winning can bring.