The day before she announced to the world her retirement from MMA, Angela Lee first broke the news to the competitors scheduled to compete for an interim ONE atomweight title in her absence.
Stamp Fairtex and Seo Hee Ham were just 24 hours away from competing in the ONE Fight Night 14 main event; the winner expected to face Lee for the undisputed championship. Lee, however, had already planned to call it a career to focus on her non-profit, FightStory, that was created after the tragic death of her sister, Victoria Lee, at 18.
Lee felt it was the right move to tell Stamp and Ham what was happening.
“On fight week, I asked ONE, I asked the team, this is what I want to do,” Lee revealed on The MMA Hour. “I want to tell these ladies beforehand, because there’s already so much at stake. There’s already so much pressure on them.
“I think it’s only fair to let them know beforehand to prepare themselves and to get their mind ready before the fight.”
Lee, who claimed the inaugural ONE atomweight title back in 2016, hadn’t fully decided on her future before the promotion introduced the interim belt.
Rather than shock the fighters with that announcement as they entered the cage, the 27-year-old Hawaiian wanted to provide them with the same courtesy she would have expected during her own career.
“I know what it’s like to be in their shoes,” Lee said. “I wouldn’t want something like this to just be sprung on me the day of the fight. So I just treated them how I would have wanted to be treated in that situation.”
Stamp ultimately went onto claim the title with a vicious body shot knockout in the third round.
A day earlier, Stamp burst into tears after hearing that Lee — the fighter she has often called her idol — would retire from active competition. Ham expressed similar emotion, admitting she had always dreamed about earning the chance to face Lee in the cage.
“I was really surprised [at their reaction],” Lee said. “When I’m on this journey and I’m fighting, you don’t really take the time to think about things like that. What they showed me was how much I did and what it meant for them. It was very, very touching.”
The same could be said for the outpouring of support that Lee received when she finally made the announcement to an adoring crowd in Singapore, where she competed eight times during her career.
“I am peace with everything,” Lee said. “I think that it went the best way that it could have. Everyone at that event, everyone I met throughout the week was really, really kind and supportive.
“Even the two ladies, Stamp and Seo Hee Ham, it’s just really nice to see this respect and mutual camaraderie that we have. It’s a hard feeling to describe but even with the language barrier, there’s just an understanding and there’s love there. I really appreciated that.”