Angela Lee knows it’s one thing to become a world champion, quite another to hold on to the title as the forces of mixed martial arts mass against you. That’s why the 20-year-old wants to get matters sorted sharpish on Friday night.
“It is up to me to deliver,” said Lee. “We’re looking to finish this fight quickly.”
Lee will be putting her One Championship atomweight world title on the line on Friday against 24-year-old Brazilian Istela Nunes in their co-headline bout at the One: Dynasty of Heroes card being staged at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. It will be the second title defense for Lee, who lives in Hawaii but fights out of Singapore, following a victory over Taiwan’s Jenny Huang in March that took her record to 7-0.
Before that, Lee – the poster girl for the sport in Asia – had waited almost 12 months to get back in the cage after a title win over Japanese veteran Mei Yamaguchi last May that had the then-19-year-old the youngest world champion in the sport’s history.
Lee said the short turnaround this time around was welcome.
“The hard work has been done so now it’s all about strategy and game plan,” said Lee. “I’d trained really hard coming into Bangkok and we were able to carry that over coming into this fight because they are so close together. If I could I’d have all my fights close together.
“At the beginning of my career my fights were pretty much all back to back and in that way it was easy for me to keep my weight down and just stay in the best shape. That’s how I feel now, too.”
The fact that the One organization has two world champions on show is an indication of just how a big a night Friday promises to be in terms of showcasing to the world the talent on their roster, and in terms of making a statement of intent.
Just three weeks on from Friday and MMA fans will see the return of the Las Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Championship outfit to Singapore – and to Asia – and the battle for the hearts and minds of fans in Asia seems to have only really just begun.
That much was acknowledged by One’s welterweight champion Ben Askren (15-0, one no contest) who will face-off against Malaysia’s Agilan Thani in the co-main event on Friday night.
“One has been growing and this looks like being their biggest year ever,” said Askren, who was last seen in the cage in April last year. “I’m just excited to fight again and hopefully One Championship can keep me really busy this year because I’m just looking to get a bunch of fights. I love to fight. I wouldn’t be talking to you now if that wasn’t the case.”
The 32-year-old is a one-time Olympic wrestler and had a stellar college career that saw him twice named All-American. Since turning his attention to MMA, Askren has carved through his opponents will an all-out attacking style that has made him a fan favorite across the globe.
Askren vowed to produce more of the same against a 21-year-old whose career is just starting to take shape after a battle with weight that apparently saw him drop 55kg in 12 months.
“I’m almost done,” Askren said of his preparations. “Ahead is just some light training and some touching up. All the hard work is done. I just keep it simple, and I’m ready to go.”