MMA: Angela Lee is One Championship's first 'mum champ' after win over Stamp Fairtex
One Championship's mixed martial arts (MMA) star Angela Lee hardly missed a beat in her return to action after almost two-and-a-half years, retaining her atomweight world title with a typically dominant submission victory.
She submitted Stamp Fairtex of Thailand with 10 seconds left in the second round of their five-round bout, which capped One's extravaganza "X" event at the Indoor Stadium on Saturday (March 26).
Lee, 25, last stepped into the cage in October 2019 and during her time out of it, became a mother to daughter Ava Marie, who was born in April 2021. As the confetti rained down from above following her win, Lee's husband Bruno Pucci brought their child into the cage.
"This right here," said Lee, looking into her baby's eyes as she cradled her, "is a dream come true for me.
"I wanted to be a world champion, and I accomplished that in 2016.
"Today, I became the first-ever mum-champ in One Championship," she added, as her voice trembled.
"And this little girl right here, she's the reason you guys saw the best performance from me. So thank you Ava Marie, momma did it for you babygirl."
Lee, perhaps eager to make up for lost time, came out aggressively in the bout but was then rocked midway through the first round by a mean body shot from Stamp.
And while it made her retreat, the Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt managed to sweep her Thai rival to the ground.
There, she was in her element, controlling the remainder of the round and starting the second in the same fashion. At times it looked as though she had six limbs, smothering and spinning over and under Stamp as she tried to apply a triangle choke, then armbar. She sank in her third submission attempt - a rear-naked choke - which forced her rival to tap.
Referring to her struggles in the first round, Lee quipped: "I've got to tell you, that body shot hurt.
"But the contractions I had during labour hurt more than that."
Oohs and aahs reverberated throughout the arena as knees flew and fists connected with flesh, and One welcomed back their largest crowd since the pandemic began.
As the National Stadium next door welcomed nearly 15,000 fans for Singapore's 2-1 win over Malaysia in an international friendly football match, One X saw an estimated over 5,000 spectators in the stands.
"Even with Covid (enforced) limited capacity, the stadium looked amazing," said One chief executive officer and founder Chatri Sityodtong. "You saw the energy... It was electrifying."
One X, billed as one the organisation's biggest events in their 10-year history, saw a total of 20 fights which began from 1pm, and included a special rules fight between former Ultimate Fighting Championship champion and MMA great Demetrious Johnson and muay thai star Rodtang Jitmuangnon.
Johnson proved he could match Rodtang by navigating a first round contested with a muay thai ruleset - which features more striking - before taking advantage of an MMA ruleset in the second round to take the 24-year-old Thai to the mat and submit him with a rear-naked choke.
Johnson said: "Training was really hard for me, but having a great team around me prepared me for the madness... I knew it was going to be hell (in the first round).
"I'm 35 years old, I'm no spring chicken, but I can still fight."