MMA star Angela Lee goes from carrying a belt to carrying a baby & eyeing cage return

Fans looking forward to her kicking ███ until foot hurts.

Belmont Lay | August 14, 2021, 08:25 PM

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How do you go from being a young prize fighter to a young mother, and back to being a young prize fighter again?

Ask Angela Lee, the 25-year-old wholesome mixed martial arts star with One Championship.

Out of action for close to 2 years

If the Hawaiian resident goes back into the cage between now and before 2021 is up, she would have been out of action for two years.

Her last bout was in October 2019, which she won to put a halt to her two-fight losing streak and which brought her fight record to 10-2.

As events after that bout would have it, with the world plummeting into Covid-19 madness and sadness, Lee effectively went on a hiatus and started a family with her husband, Bruno Pucci, a fellow mixed martial artist from Brazil who is also with One Championship.

On April 16, 2021, Lee gave birth to a baby girl, Ava Marie Pucci.

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A post shared by Angela Lee Pucci (@angelaleemma)

How has motherhood been?

So, is it tougher being a fighter or a mom?

In a video interview with Mothership, Lee said: "I think both have their own set of challenges. Of course, being a fighter, the preparation, physically, it's challenging at times, and mentally as well."

"But being a mom, it has its own set of challenges."

She added: "I've always wanted to be a mom, but I never really knew what to expect. Ever since I had Ava, it's really exceeded all my expectations. It's everything I could have imagined, and more."

"I just love spending every moment with her."

Lee, for the record, is still the One Championship promotion's women's atomweight world champion.

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A post shared by Angela Lee Pucci (@angelaleemma)

Ready for cage return?

So, has ring rust set in?

From the looks of it, Lee admitted to feeling slightly different physically, but other than that, probably very little or none at all.

The fighter with the winsome smile has gone back to the gym to train just two months after giving birth.

Lee said she is on a "flexible schedule" though, as training depends on her daughter, Ava.

But the fighter wakes up at 7am each day and heads to the gym by 8:30am to train with her husband and siblings as well.

Lee's mother will also be at the gym to help out with the babysitting, such as taking care of Ava when she is asleep, so that Lee can do her workouts.

Asked if fans can look forward to her getting back into the cage to fight before 2021 is up, Lee said: "So, ideally, I would like to be ready to fight again by the end of the year."

"Right now, I'm just beginning to train again and I'm actually in the middle of completing a training programme specifically for post-partum athletes."

But getting back to her former state of mind and body, has its set of challenges.

Lee explained: "I mean the hardest part is just being patient with it because mentally I still remember what my body is capable of and what I can do, but physically, my body's gone through changes and I just have to be patient, you know, while my body plays catch up."

Will daughter become an MMA fighter too?

A question that Lee gets frequently, and which is very premature to ask, is whether Ava will grow up to follow in mommy's footsteps and be a fighter too.

Lee said she gets that question a lot.

But as parents, she said she and her husband would want to expose their child to more things than just fighting.

However, being exposed to the fight game is inevitable.

Lee said: "She's going to be with us while we're working in training. We definitely want to teach her martial arts, for self-defense purposes, but we want to make her enjoy it definitely."

"We don't want to force it upon her, and also I want to expose her to other things."

Wasn't groomed to be professional fighter

Lee's own experience probably comes in handy in this department.

She got into the fight business gradually, she said, and was not groomed by her parents to become a fighter from the get-go.

She only felt she could be a professional MMA fighter when she was about 16 or 17, when passion for the sport took over.

That was when she went to Greece for a competition and got to experience travelling and competing at a high level and falling in love with it.

But, of course, her competitive streak was evident since she was young.

Lee said: "I think I had my very first competition when I was very young, and I just loved going out there and beating the boys up -- it was very fun for me."

Has MMA evolved over the years?

Having had 12 professional fights so far, Lee has come some way.

When asked to comment on how the fight game has evolved, where fighters have to develop and cultivate a different persona sometimes to sell tickets and keep rivalries fresh and dramatic, Lee said she prefers to be herself both in real life and in business.

"So everyone is different, every fighter that you see, some fighters have kind of like a split personality," she said.

"They are one thing when they're in front of the lights and cameras, and then they're who they really are with their family."

Being such a personality is not her cup of tea though.

Lee said: "For me, ever since I started fighting, I wanted to make sure that it was me 100 per cent of the time. I want to be authentic to my fans and so what you see on TV, in the cage, or when you meet me in person, they're all the same person."

Won't be fighting younger sister

For anyone from the outside looking in, Lee's credentials are quite possibly written in her DNA as she hails from a family of fighters.

via Angela Lee Instagram

Her father, who is currently her coach, is originally from Singapore and her mother, who also did martial arts, is South Korean.

Her younger brother, Christian Lee, 23, is in One Championship, and he too recently became a parent.

Her younger sister, Victoria Lee, 16, just made her One Championship debut in February 2021.

The youngest sibling, Adrian Lee, is 15, and has an eye on sport as well.

And just to be clear, elder sister Angela and younger sister Victoria will not be teeing off any time soon or ever.

Lee said there is "no chance" she would fight her own sister.

via Angela Lee Instagram

She said, while sounding aghast at that suggestion of inter-family fighting: "Oh, me and my sister will never ever ever fight each other, there's just no chance. I mean, maybe there are some siblings out there that would do that but in this family, there's no way."

Future of fighting looks bright

Even if fighting her own sibling will never be on the cards, the near future looks exciting for Lee.

She is set to face the winner of the inaugural One Championship atomweight world grand prix, where the best fighter to emerge will get a shot at Lee's title.

Moreover, there is talk of a potential UFC-versus-One Championship extravaganza -- albeit one with a very slim chance of ever materialising.

The cross-promotional mega event can see a hypothetical showdown between Lee and the UFC two-time women's strawweight titleholder Rose Namajunas.

Such fights are always talked up by fans and promoters, but making it come to pass is a totally different ballgame.

Being an athlete and parent hard

As it stands, having made her One Championship debut in May 2015, this effectively means Lee remained competitive for four-and-a-half years, following which, she has been out of action for more than one-and-a-half years.

After her 2015 debut, she went on a five-fight win streak and won her right to fight for the inaugural atomweight title in 2016.

Lee, at just 20 years old then, defeated veteran Mei Yamaguchi to capture One Championship’s 115-pound belt.

She became the youngest world champion in the history of mixed martial arts (MMA).

But the grind still starts from home and being up front about it with the public.

At the moment, even as the prospect of returning to the cage very soon looms large, baby Ava is still a top priority -- while being a mother who is honest with what she has to deal with is just as important.

Lee said: "I mean, there are many, many great days, a lot more great days than bad days, but we still have those bad days and it's so hard so I just want you to know my journey and my story to be relatable to other moms, other athletes other people."

"And I think it's so important you know to share, the whole truth, and not just not only the good parts."

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Top photos via Angela Lee & One Championship