Angela Lee has spoken for the first time about the car crash in Hawaii in 2017 that saw her pull out of an atomweight title fight with Mei Yamaguchi. At the time it was reported as an accident but she now admits it was a suicide attempt.

Lee was sharing her thoughts on the subject with the Player’s Tribune, a website which features first hand accounts from elite athletes. She wrote that,

“Six years ago, I tried to end my life. My car crash in November 2017 was not an accident. It was a suicide attempt.”

In 2017 she had a 7-0 record and was the reigning ONE Championship atomweight champion. At the time she told people she had fallen asleep at the wheel.

Main event

But Lee now admits this was not the case. She recalls that,

“I’m 20 years old. Living the dream. I had become the first female world champion in the history of ONE Championship the previous year. Then came back-to-back successful title defenses in 2017. I bought a brand-new car. I met my husband. I got engaged. I was excited to plan a wedding. It was the happiest I’d ever been. Life was good.”

Having already beaten Yamaguchi once she was a strong favourite heading into the rematch. The fight card also featured a welterweight title fight between Ben Askren and Shinya Aoki but it was Lee who had main event status.

It was a huge platform for the 20 year old to fight on but she admits that the pressure was starting to get to her,

“But then November rolled around, and as 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.”

Suicide attempt

Lee stepped on the scales and found she was 12lbs over the ONE Championship strawweight limit. She attempted to injure herself in order to get out of the fight but was unable to do it,

“At one point, when everyone else in my house was asleep, I went to the bathroom and literally tried to break my own arm. Then I tried to give myself a concussion.”

Having failed in her attempts to injure herself she decided to commit suicide by crashing her car,

“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.”


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Tragic death

With the support of her husband, fellow ONE Championship fighter Bruno Pucci, she was able to rebuild her life and her career. But while Lee’s story ended happily her younger sister’s did not.

For the first time Lee publicly acknowledged that,

“On December 26, 2022, my younger sister, Victoria, took her own life.”

Victoria Lee was 18, just a few months younger than her older sister had been when she attempted suicide. She was also an undefeated ONE Championship fighter.

Force for good

In the aftermath of her sister’s death Lee decided to found Fightstory. It is a non profit organization that aims ‘to inspire, heal and unite the world through the stories, struggles and triumphs of fighters from all walks of life.’

Lee’s hope is that some good can come out of her sister’s death and her own experience with suicidal thoughts and she wants to spread the message that,

“Although you may feel lonely in your fight with mental health, you are not alone.”

It is almost unprecedented for an elite athlete to come out and admit that they attempted suicide during the pinnacle of their sporting career. Lee should be commended for her bravery and, regardless of whether she decided to continue fighting, the 27 year old is set to be a powerful force for good in the combat sport community for years to come.