MMA: Angela Lee targets end-2021 return to One Championship cage after giving birth

MMA: Angela Lee targets end-2021 return to One Championship cage after giving birth

SINGAPORE – Angela Lee believes becoming a mother will give her a “higher purpose” when she eventually returns to the cage, the mixed martial arts (MMA) star told The Straits Times on Wednesday (Oct 7).

The 24-year-old, One Championship’s atomweight world champion, had on Oct 1 announced on social media that she was 11 weeks pregnant with her first child together with her husband, fellow One fighter Bruno Pucci.

The couple, who tied the knot in July 2018 and are based in Hawaii, will welcome the baby next April.

Lee, however, does not expect to stay out of action for too long.

She said over a zoom call: “I’ve told my family and Chatri (Sityodtong, One chief executive) that after I give birth in April, I’ll start training as soon as possible, and get back in the cage before the end of the year.

“That’s my goal for next year, we’ll see how everything goes… I’ll be 25 then, that’s still quite young for our sport, and I still love MMA and what I do.”

When asked if motherhood will give her a maternal instinct in fights, she said: “I would think so.

“I can’t really speak about it yet because I haven’t had the baby, so I don’t know exactly how it will change my mental and emotional state of mind

“But I do believe the baby will give me a higher purpose, and that I will fight not just for wins of belts or for legacy. I’m excited to be fighting for the little one.”

There are MMA fighters who have returned to action after their pregnancies, such as Ultimate Fighting Championship duo Mackenzie Dern and Michelle Waterson.

Lee said she has been a “big follower” of their journeys, and said: “I have huge respect for them and I cannot wait to be on the list among them as mom fighters and as a mom champion too.”

The Canadian citizen, who has a South Korean mum and Singaporean dad and fights under the Singapore flag, was slated to defend her title against Denice Zamboanga of the Philippines this month, but her pregnancy has changed those plans.

Lee’s last fight was in October 2019, when she retained her title against Xiong Jingnan at the One: Century event in Tokyo.

With Lee out of action for the time being, One Championship has announced an atomweight grand prix tournament will kick off in January, with the winner earning a shot at Lee’s championship upon her return.

For now, Lee is happy to focus on her baby, whose gender is not revealed yet.

The joy in her voice was clear when she recounted how she broke the news to her family with fake scratch lottery tickets which said “we’re having a baby”, and groaned as she talked about being hit with “pretty bad” morning sickness.

“I call it all-day sickness,” she joked.

No doubt, Lee and Pucci’s child will grow up around martial arts – they run their own jiu jitsu gym and their family owns an MMA gym.

So would they give their backing if their first-born were to express an interest in pursuing MMA as a career?

“Bruno and I have talked about this many times, about how we want to raise our child and give them all the opportunities and options to choose whatever they want to pursue,” Lee said.

“We’re not going to force them to take a certain path… (but) martial arts instils amazing values in young children, and if they choose the path of pro fighting, with both of us having expertise in it, they will have the support from us, 100 per cent.”