Angela Lee has revealed that before signing with ONE Championship she had been hoping to compete on TUF 20. The show was for strawweights and began filming in 2014.
Lee would have been just 17 when the show started filming. While she wanted a spot in the house, living alongside seven strawweight rivals and being constantly followed by the cameras, producers understandably felt that the teenager was too young.
In a recent podcast Lee recalls how disappointed she was,
“The Ultimate Fighter season started and they just brought in the 115lbs girls but to get into the house you had to be 21. I was gutted.”
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Paige VanZant was originally announced as a cast member. She was only 19 at the time and was eventually removed due to her age with the UFC deciding to sign the teenager anyway.
Carla Esparza would eventually go on to submit Rose Namajunas in the final and become the inaugural UFC strawweight champion. Her opponent would eventually capture the belt and both fighters are still going strong.
Lee announced her retirement last month. The Hawaiian would go on to become the inaugural ONE Championship atomweight champion and explained how she ended up signing with that promotion,
“We keep looking around for other organizations and we stumble across this organization from Singapore. My dad’s from Singapore and we visited many times throughout my childhood.”
VIDEO: Watch what happened when Egyptian Kickboxing Champion Aya Saber takes on Singaporean MMA debutant Angela Lee: https://t.co/uucaTvDmnh
— ONE Championship (@ONEChampionship) June 12, 2015
Lee was able to reach out to ONE Championship directly because her father, Ken Lee, had a personal connection with one of the promotion’s key personnel,
“We did a little digging and found out that the matchmaker is Matt Hume who my dad trained with in Seattle back when we were living in Canada.”
Hume had met Lee when she was a 1 year old and would go on to sign her for ONE Championship. The rest is history as the teenager made her debut in 2015 and went on to win her first nine fights, capturing the atomweight title in the process.
Right up until her retirement Lee was the only fighter to ever hold the ONE Championship atomweight title. A replacement was crowned immediately with Stamp Fairtex stopping Seo Hee Ham to capture the belt.
Had the UFC allowed the 17 year old to enter the TUF house things would have panned out very differently. But she went on to have a glorious career with ONE Championship and it doesn’t sound as if Lee has any regrets.