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Sibling pair that's lighting up the mixed martial arts scene
IN the world of professional mixed martial arts today, there is perhaps no pair of siblings that is more prominent and successful than One Championship fighters Angela Lee and Christian Lee.
The 23-year-old Angela is the undisputed queen of the company's atomweight division (47.7-52.2kg), as she has worn the women's atomweight world championship belt for 42 months and counting.
Last month at One Championship's landmark 100th "live" event in Tokyo, she defeated China's Xiong Jingnan in the main event by making her tap out with just 12 seconds remaining in the fifth and final round.
On that same day in the Japanese capital, the 21-year-old Christian - the current lightweight world champion since May - proved he is a force to be reckoned with in the sport when he clinched another big prize, the lightweight world grand prix championship, by beating Russia's Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev.
The Hawaii-based Angela and Christian - the oldest of four children of a Chinese-Singaporean father and South Korean mother - were in Singapore this week to attend One Championship's latest show, titled "Edge of Greatness", on Friday night at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang.
BT Weekend had a chat with the two fighters at the Evolve MMA gym in Far East Square, on the sidelines of an open workout involving five One Championship athletes, including Angela's Brazilian husband Bruno Pucci.
The siblings opened up about the incredible year they have had so far, and how they are gearing up for another busy 12 months in 2020.
Welcome back to Singapore. What a year it's been for the both of you.
Angela: Yes, it's been amazing for our whole family, actually. What I like is that all of us - our parents and two other siblings, and my husband - are on this journey together.
It's not just Christian and I who have done well. Earlier this year, we had the chance to bring our younger brother and sister (Adrian and Victoria) to an international martial arts competition (in Croatia and Italy) and they did so well by winning their first world championships. And Bruno's just received his US green card and he's back in action inside the cage, so we couldn't be happier.
Your last fight was a really dramatic one, and you managed to beat Xiong with just seconds left on the clock. What was going through your mind in those last few moments, and has that victory sunk in yet?
Angela: I was just trying to finish the fight (without having to go to the judges' decision). To get Xiong to tap out right at the end, that was the icing on the cake.
We worked hard for eight long weeks in the lead-up to that match, and I will say I trained harder than I had ever done. I believe in working hard, but it's also important to take a break after such a fight, to unwind and recharge. I'm enjoying my time off as much as possible now because I know 2020 is going to be an incredibly busy year. One Championship will be in so many cities and I want to be involved as often as I can.
Christian, a lot of other fighters on the roster are now eyeing your two belts. How are you coping with the spotlight and pressure?
I deal with it by staying as ready as I can, all year round. That's why I was able to step in (and replace the injured Eddie Alvarez) with just 10 days' notice to face Arslanaliev in Tokyo, and still I managed to win.
I don't think of it as pressure. It's more of a privilege to have these two titles and be seen as among the best fighters in the world. I operate the same now as I did before - I'm in the gym everyday, there are no days off, and I train with the mentality that there's always room to improve.
Angela, you were unsuccessful in winning the strawweight world title from Xiong in March this year in Tokyo. Are you still looking to compete in strawweight (52.3-56.7kg) again?
For sure, that's my goal for 2020. I want to capture that championship and be a two-division champion. I'm just trying to stay healthy and avoid injuries. Injuries are the top concern for any fighter. I know what my targets are, and I'm working hard towards that.
Who would be your dream opponent?
Christian: Angela and I are the champions in our weight divisions; that means we are the best and everyone else is working their way up to be where we are.
We do plan on staying busy, and I want to defend my belts against the very best. I would love to be in the main event of One Championship's first show in the US some time next year, as well as get the chance to headline the first show in South Korea (slated to take place in Seoul in June 2020).
Angela: I'm going to defend my atomweight world title, try to get another belt, and continue this legacy that we have created. This year was just the beginning, and I'm confident that 2020 will be even better.