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Dream job: MMA fighter

Written by
Rebecca Liew

Angela Lee, 20
Instructor at Evolve MMA and ONE Atomweight World Champion

What’s mixed martial arts (MMA) to you?

MMA is a dynamic combination of styles, including kickboxing and wrestling. It’s about how you move from one style to another, and finding the best techniques to reduce the time needed to take out an opponent.

How did you develop an interest in MMA?

My parents are both martial arts instructors, so I began training as soon as I could walk! I started competing when I was six, but my real interest to turn professional only developed after I won a world tournament at 16. My parents never forced me to compete, though – it was always me wanting to do it myself.

What is your fighting strategy?

Whenever I step into the cage, it’s always with the same mindset: to focus on the game plan that’s been discussed by my coaches and I, and to finish the match as quickly as I can. I normally analyse my opponent’s game style around two months prior – I check who she’s fought against, what her record is, and watch some tape on previous fights to get a feel of things.

Take me through a typical day of training.

I normally wake up around 5am and clock in about six hours of training a day – and when I’m in Hawaii, that includes teaching kids’ and adults’ classes at United MMA [her parents’ gym] with my brother, Christian. I like teaching children, so I sometimes drop in on the Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes at Evolve just to help out.

What’s the worst injury you’ve sustained?

I fractured my collarbone a week before a competition a couple of years ago. But because I’d been training all year for it, I sucked it up and wrestled through the pain. I won first place, so it was totally worth it.

Is there a diet you stick to?

I usually begin dieting eight to ten weeks prior to a match, and it’s always clean foods like oatmeal, protein shakes and salads. The aim’s to cut my weight so that I’m in prime condition to fight, which is tough because I love food. I always celebrate after by stuffing my face with stacks of chocolates, candies and chips. I also keep a hit list of places I want to eat at, and bak chor mee’s always on it. 

Do you think Singaporeans are becoming more accepting of females in male-dominated sports?

Being a female in a physical, contact sport like MMA does go against Asian culture, but I think women should be doing martial arts, because it’s a form of self-defence. It shouldn’t be seen as violent and brutal. Besides, it’s not something that’s bad for your health.

How would you like to see the MMA scene evolve locally?

I’m hoping to grow the woman’s division in One Championship and get more women interested in the sport. Fighting isn’t for everyone, but taking martial arts classes and learning basic self-defence techniques is definitely beneficial to people from all walks of life.

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