Only two months after welcoming baby girl Ava Marie in April, with Brazilian MMA fighter husband Bruno “Puccibull” Pucci, One Championship prize fighter Angela “Unstoppable” Lee is back on the mat to defend her title as reigning atomweight queen of the world.
Although dates of the next championship have yet to be determined, Asian martial arts promotional body One has already put an eight-woman atomweight world tournament together to determine Lee’s next challenger this September.
Now living in Hawaii and training at her family-run gym headed by her father and coach Ken Lee, the new mum shares that she went through a two-month training program for postpartum athletes, on top of regular drill sessions. If all goes to plan, Lee will be fighting fit and ready to return to the cage by the end of the year.
“I am still easing back into things and don’t have a specific training schedule just yet. I would like to be ready to fight again by the end of the year if the situation allows. With the help of my family and team, I am slowly getting my body back into the game and I want to be ready when the time comes,” says 25-year-old Lee, who is half Korean, half Singapore Chinese but born in Canada.
Aside from being first-time parentis, Lee and Pucci have also had their hands full with the opening of their own training school — United BJJ Hawaii — focusing on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). “Bruno and I always dreamed of having our own martial arts school. It’s our passion but it’s also our way of giving back to the community by sharing our knowledge for grappling and BJJ. We are so happy that we are able to do what we love every single day,” she gushes.
As a new mother who is still breastfeeding, Lee understands that returning to her pre-pregnancy level of fitness is something you cannot rush. “It’s difficult practicing patience. I initially tried to just jump right back into things but my body told me to slow down. My body aches after training and even when doing light sparring rounds, I felt sharp pain in my pelvis while kicking,” she says.
With physical challenges come the mental blocks too, she adds. “There have been days when I feel so down, frustrated and emotional, thinking about how hard it is to get back in the circle. But everyone reminds me that this is part of the process and made me realise that I have to be more patient with myself.”
We understand the urgency, as there were early whispers that Lee’s title would be stripped from her after her pregnancy announcement, but One’s chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong quashed rumours by saying it would be “unfathomable” to do that.
If One Championship stays true to its word, Lee’s self-imposed timeline can be a more flexible one where she can thoroughly enjoy motherhood and marriage, and regain her strength having been on hiatus for almost two years. It just so happens that younger brother Christian “Warrior” Lee, 23 — a One Lightweight world champion — also became a first-time father at the same time as his older sister.
See also: Lifestyle: Man on a mission
During this time, their younger sister — Victoria Lee, 16, who is also signed with One Championship — stepped out of their shadows and won her first two high-profile tournaments in Singapore this year both in atomweight divisions.
In an interview with Options, Lee shares the rigours of juggling motherhood and a professional sporting career, plus essential self-care tips for new mums.
Can you share with us how your journey as a first-time mother has been so far?
Motherhood has been everything I imagined and more. It is such a unique and beautiful bond that is truly unexplainable. I never knew I could love someone so much, that is until Ava came along and shifted my world. She is my reason, my why, my number one priority.
Mum life has its downs too so there are days that I really struggle. It did not work out when I attempted to return back immediately to the way it was. I have since learned to listen to my body and have been practicing patience with myself.
Did you work out during pregnancy?
Yes, I did continue to work out during my pregnancy but I adjusted the intensity and frequency as I got further along. Every woman is different. Our bodies are different and our babies are different. I think that we should definitely be the one to judge what we can do and at what pace. I would only recommend that they make sure the exercises they are doing is something they feel confident doing.
It is completely okay for women to want to work out, diet and lose the baby weight, but it’s also completely okay for women to be comfortable and happy with their bodies.
Did you follow any special prenatal diet?
No I did not. It was really difficult for me to eat and keep down my food. My daughter actually made me eat pretty healthy. I craved salads and fruit and smoothies. I couldn’t stand meat or anything fried and oily. But I did enjoy all kinds of sweets, especially milkshakes!
Currently, are you following any postpartum or breastfeeding diet?
I’m not restricting myself but I do try to eat 80% clean and 20% I still love to have my sweets. Because I’m exclusively breastfeeding my baby and she eats (a lot), I have to make sure I’m getting enough nutrients for the both of us.
Now that you are back to training, what is the hardest part about it?
The most difficult part is to manage my own expectations and to be patient with my progress. Results are not immediate and I do have to remind myself that often.
A typical day for me is waking up with my daughter Ava around 7am while my husband feeds and takes care of all three of our dogs. Then Ava and I got ready and changed. I eat breakfast and then we head to the gym because there is training at 8.30am. Sometimes I train and I’ll only drill but other days, I spend time with Ava and my sister-in-law Katie and her daughter Alia, while Bruno trains with my siblings Christian, Victoria and Adrian.
Do you have any tips for new mothers who want to get back into shape?
Take it slow, make a plan but be flexible. It may be hard to stick to a specific schedule because with a baby, so many things pop up. Give yourself lots of grace and be proud of the effort you’re making.
Are there any plans for more children in the near future?
Bruno and I definitely want more children but for now, we want to really make the most of this time with our daughter Ava. We can’t wait to travel as a family and take her to the fights to watch Mom and Dad fight!