Angela Lee nearly lost her career and her life in a devastating automobile accident in 2017. Six years later, the reigning ONE atomweight world champion has revealed that the car crash was not an accident, but an attempt to take her own life.
On Tuesday, the 27-year-old mixed martial artist published an emotional article penned for The Players’ Tribune revealing that mounting pressure ahead of a title defense is what led Lee to attempt suicide just days before she was scheduled to step inside the cage.
“My car crash in November 2017 was not an accident. It was a suicide attempt,” Lee said. “I was getting ready for my last title defense of the year, things started to snowball for me. Pressure, stress, and expectations all began to build up. I had tunnel vision and thought that this upcoming fight was the most important thing in my life. Looking back now, I had everything I could have wanted at the time, but I didn’t realize it. Didn’t fully appreciate it. Because I had gotten to a place where making weight for that fight was the biggest thing in the world to me.
“I told myself: If you don’t get this done, you’ll lose everything. And, as an athlete, in all honesty, that mentality can be useful and motivating. But it’s also a double-edged sword. And, with me, I got to a point where I had pushed my mind and body too far. I couldn’t stop thinking about the shame that would result if I wasn’t able to make the fight. As someone who had never missed any competition in her entire life, that terrified me. It became all-encompassing. And ultimately, I got to a point where I would rather take myself out of the equation than deal with what might come. That’s where my head was at. It was all or nothing.”
Lee made multiple attempts to injure herself in hopes of getting out of the fight. After trying to break her own arm and give herself a concussion, she decided that the most effective method would be to get behind the wheel of her vehicle and speed down a treacherous stretch of highway.
“I just pressed my foot all the way down on the gas pedal. As far down as it would go,” Lee said. “I don’t know how fast I was going. But it was as fast as my car could move. I wanted to hit the guardrail as hard as I could, and I just remember turning the steering wheel and swerving and then hitting something, and then it was just … rolling. Rolling and rolling and rolling.
“When I opened my eyes, I was upside down. There was shattered glass everywhere. I remember waiting around in that car for a good bit of time, hanging upside down, just basically trying to process everything. Like…. Am I still here? Am I alive?”
Lee’s husband, Bruno Pucci, was the only person she had told the truth about that night. Until now.
In the months following, Angela Lee struggled to come to terms with what had happened. To this day, she still has a difficult time telling her story, but each time she does, it gets a little easier.
“Everything about this healing process has been a challenge, of course,” Lee said. “It has been far from easy. But with each time that I share my story with another person … I still cry. Tears still fall. My voice still trembles. But, each time, it gets a little bit better.
“At this point, I’m just trying my best each day, and every day that looks different. But I’m OK with that. I realize now that I’m only human, we all are. We aren’t meant to live a perfect, spotless life. I’ve come to learn that this life, it’s life. It’s about growing and learning to accept yourself. Some days are good, some are tough, but each day I choose to keep fighting. There are still many tough days. But how I navigate through those days is a lot better now. A lot healthier. I have tools to use and people I can count on to let them know how I’m feeling.”
Angela Lee Pays Tribue to Her Little Sister, Victoria Lee
Recently, Angela Lee launched Fightstory, a non-profit mental health organization where fighters from all walks of life can share their stories of struggles, tragedy, and triumph. The inspiration for Fightstory came from Lee’s own personal loss after her 18-year-old sister and budding MMA prospect, Victoria Lee, tragically took her own life late last year.
“On Dec. 26, 2022, my younger sister, Victoria, took her own life,” Lee revealed. “Fightstory was inspired by Victoria and the remarkable life that she lived at just 18 years old. Fightstory is just as much hers as it is mine. It’s something we created together, to save lives and to try and make the world a better place. We want people to know that although you may feel lonely in your fight with mental health, you are not alone.”
Still struggling at times with her own mental health, Angela Lee is determined to help those facing similar situations.
“If you are struggling right now, if you are in a dark place, if you are contemplating ending your life, let us be the ones to say, we understand. We know how you feel,” Lee said. “It’s not about being strong all the time. You don’t need to fake it or pretend that everything is OK. There is so much strength in honesty and in asking for help. And we all can be there for each other.”
If you or someone you know needs help, you can reach out to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. The 988 Lifeline provides 24/7 free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention, and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.