Dedicated And Dangerous
Known for their intense fighting styles, siblings and mixed martial artists Angela and Christian Lee take their best swing in Singapore Friday, when they hope to be crowned world champions.
Whether they walk out of the octagon with crowns or not, Angela and Christian Lee are certain to make MMA history during ONE Championship’s “ONE: Unstoppable Dreams” event Friday, May 18 in Singapore. After all, the Mililani residents are not only the youngest siblings to be featured on the same card, but they’ll also be the first brother and sister to compete in the same event for world championship belts in MMA annals. In addition, 21-year-old Angela is the youngest world title-holder in history (she earned the distinction at age 19), and if Christian, 19, is victorious, he’ll match his sister’s milestone.
Angela will be pitted against Japan’s Mei Yamaguchi in a much-anticipated atomweight rematch. The co-main event will mark the second time Yamaguchi, whom Angela defeated in 2016 to win the inaugural world champ designation, will compete for the crown. Angela’s been able to hold onto the atomweight accolade for two years so far, and has successfully defended her throne twice already.
For Angela, Friday’s match will be business as usual.
“The strategy going into this fight is going to be obviously looking to finish, but I think people will also see how I’ve matured as an MMA fighter,” she says. ” We’ve both made tremendous improvements, and we’re excited to show the whole world that.”
Christian, meanwhile, meets Martin Nguyen in the ring for another stab at the featherweight belt in the co-main event.
“Unfortunately the last time I fought Martin, I lost,” he recalls. “It was my first and only defeat, and this time, I know that the corrections I’ve made to my fighting style will show in the fight. I’m very confident I’m going to walk away with the belt this time.”
There’s no doubt the crowd will be on its feet for the Lees’ fights. The siblings are fast and aggressive, and are known to finish fights in the early rounds. Their styles are also eclectic and energetic, and their performances never seem to disappoint fans.
Their secret weapon is father Ken Lee, who serves as coach and manager.
“He knows us so well,” says Angela. “Not just as fighters, but as people, as his children. He knows how we work.
“It just gives us that much of an advantage when we step in there, knowing our dad is in our corner.”
Yet, Ken admits it’s difficult to watch his children enter the ring time and time again. It’s a dangerous sport, but he recognizes their raw talent and the blood, sweat and tears they put into their craft. As a father, though, it’s an emotional experience.
“Being a dad always comes first, and it often contradicts being a coach or manager,” he says. “As a dad, you want them resting if they’re tired or sore, you want them eating enough food; as a coach, you have to make sure they hit a certain weight and maintain a certain number of hours per week of training.”
It’s this family dynamic, filled with support, honesty and love, that makes the Lee siblings so powerful in the ring.
“We fight as if we’re defending our family,” Christian says.
Part of their success also stems from Angela and Christian’s close relationship. Social media followers can attest to the sibling love and encouragement they give each other, and, to hear Ken tell it, that just makes them better people and fighters.
“It’s always been that way,” he says. “Angela and Christian have been best friends since they were in elementary.”
And Christian echoes the sentiment: “Having that bond, it just gets strengthened with each training session, with each fight camp.”
MMA is definitely a family affair, as Ken and wife Jewelz have been in the industry for a number of years. Aside from being well-decorated fighters, they also opened multiple gyms in Canada, and upon moving to Hawai‘i continued to pursue that passion, opening United MMA in Waipi‘o. Angela and Christian have fond memories crawling around on the mats and just being surrounded by a bustling gym environment.
“It was kind of a natural transition for us to train and learn, and then test our skills in competition,” says Angela.
And, adds Christian, passion plays a huge part in it, as well.
“If either of us weren’t really passionate about fighting and training, we wouldn’t have gotten to where we are today,” he says. “It’s a dangerous sport, and you have to really love it in order to be successful.”
The two knew they wanted to pursue pro careers in fighting back in 2012 when they traveled to Greece and won world titles there. Next up were title takeovers in Croatia.
“That’s kind of what spurred us into having this dream of becoming professional MMA fighters,” Angela recalls. “Since then, we kind of had that picture of being the first brother-sister world champions in our head, and now, we’re going to be making that dream come true.”
Christian remembers, at ages 14 and 16, winning those world titles in Greece. It was a phenomenon that’s stuck with him years down the road.
“We want to achieve that same world title win on a pro stage,” he says. “Angela won her belt, and now it’s my opportunity to win mine.”
Angela and Christian will have the home-field advantage for “ONE: Unstoppable Dreams” in Singapore, where they train for part of the year, and have a large group from Hawai‘i flying up for the big event, as well. Aside from their camps in Asia, the Lees also fight out of United MMA in Waipi‘o. Their time spent back home entails leading a lot of martial arts instruction, especially for keiki classes. It’s something, says Ken, that they just enjoy doing. And if they weren’t busy enough with traveling, teaching and training, Angela started preparations for her rematch with Yamaguchi while planning her wedding — she’ll be marrying fellow fighter and Evolve MMA teammate Bruno Pucci this summer on O‘ahu. (Christian is slated to be a groomsman.)
With the upcoming nuptials, Angela also plans on moving her fight camp back to Hawai‘i, which is good news for family and friends — though she’ll still be traveling back to Singapore on occasion.
“It would be nice to stay closer to the family, and I’ve been missing my siblings (Victoria and Adrian) like crazy,” she says. “I don’t want to miss them growing up.”
Christian, for his part, has always kept his main home base on O‘ahu. And both know that being able to train together will make them just as fierce for upcoming competitions.
“When we’re in the same room, and see each other push, it makes the other want to push harder, too,” Angela explains.
There’s no doubt that 2018 is a big year for both Angela and Christian. They’re making history, starting new life chapters and giving back to their community. A win on Friday night, then, would just be the icing on the cake.
“ONE: Unstoppable Dreams” streams live on the ONE Championship app (available for free on iOS and Android).