Angela Lee Not Afraid to Grapple With Michelle Nicolini

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Singaporean mixed martial arts superstar Angela “Unstoppable” Lee’s grappling skills will be put to the test when she squares off with eight-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion Michelle Nicolini of Brazil in a must-see women’s strawweight battle at ONE: MASTERS OF DESTINY on Friday, 12 July at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

This will be the second trip up to the strawweight division for Lee, who is the reigning ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion. 

Coming from a family who lives and breathes martial arts, Lee practically grew up in the gym with her brother, the current reigning ONE Lightweight World Champion Christian “The Warrior” Lee.

“Growing up, we focused on all the different disciplines because my Dad wanted to make sure we would be able to defend ourselves,” Lee shared.

When the Lee siblings were young, their father wanted them to learn how to grow up safe and confident, that’s how they began their journey in martial arts. While the Lee children definitely learned to strike, Angela, however, had a natural affinity with the grappling arts.

“I actually started in No-Gi submission grappling a lot more than the Gi. That is much closer to real self-defense scenarios, so that was where I would spend most of my time. As I grew older, I picked up the gi, and I’ve been doing it with the gi ever since, but I feel really confident in both areas,” Lee added.

Lee’s fascination in the self-defense aspect of martial arts eventually transformed into her love for grappling and soon thereafter, she eventually put on the gi to learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in its purest form.

Those classes raised the Singaporean athlete’s ground game to another level, and that helped her to earn seven of her nine professional mixed martial arts victories via submission.

“I love submission grappling, I love the ground game because it makes it where technique really shines through. You don’t have to use all strength and muscle,” Lee explained. 

“You can be very technical on the ground, fight bigger opponents, and still come out on top. I think it’s a really beautiful thing about jiu-jitsu and about the ground game.”

Lee’s father Ken, who is a lifelong martial artist and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, served as her first mentor in the martial art, and while she is grateful for every instructor she’s ever trained under, including the professors at Evolve MMA in Singapore, she is most grateful for all the lessons that her father has passed on to her. 

“My dad has trained for many years now. He’s done it all,” Lee said. 

“He’s kind of self-taught. He went to different schools and learned different techniques, and he got to the level where he is today. He knows first-hand what works, what doesn’t work, and he’s taught my brother and me from the time we were small until today.

“Along the way, we’ve had many friends come into the gym to cross train with us, but all of it comes from my dad. He deserves all the credit,” she continued.

Despite all the success and growth that she has experienced, Lee continuously strives to train and practice the art of grappling to hopefully one day reach her full potential in the sport.

“It took a lot of years of dedication and training, and that’s kind of the reward you’re given, but a true black belt, a true mixed martial artist, and a true jiu-jitsu practitioner are always going to keep learning and growing.”

“I think once you say, ‘I’m a black belt, I don’t need to learn anything else,’ your black belt kind of dies with you. To be a so-called ‘master,’ you have to always keep learning, and that is one thing my dad has always told me. A master is a forever student,” she added further. 

Lee’s drive for constant improvement and learning makes her a better athlete every time she competes, and it is still the same ethos she brings as she is about to go toe to toe with a true legend of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Nicolini holds second place for most IBJJF World Championship titles at black belt level and has conquered Lee once before in a grappling match.

With a full repertoire of martial skills, a very competent ground game, and a more profound mixed martial arts experience, Lee believes that things will be much different when they meet in the ring this time

“I know that because she’s a specialist in that area, she’s going to want to take the fight right to where she’s strongest, but that’s not something I’m going to give to her easily.”

“Like Christian said about [his] fight with Shinya Aoki, it wasn’t the game plan to go to the ground and fight out of an armbar in the first round, but he neutralized the situation. He found a way to escape, and he found a way to win. 

That’s the same way I feel with Michelle. If it does go to the ground, I can neutralize her attacks, I can neutralize what she wants to do and then I can find a way to implement my game plan and win the fight,” Lee concluded. 

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