The tension is rising. The stakes are high. One is a defending mixed martial arts (MMA) champion looking to make her comeback after a more than two-year absence following her marriage and motherhood. The other is on a hot streak with two world titles to her name and her star on the ascendant.
Meet Angela Lee and Stamp Fairtex, two athletes who have experienced meteoric rises to the top of the women’s division at One Championship. On March 26, the duo, both hugely popular in their own right, will face off for the first time as they battle it out for the women’s atomweight world title, which Lee currently holds.
“I do feel there is a lot more pressure on my shoulders and a lot more expectations after going through a lot in the past two years of not fighting, getting pregnant, giving birth and recovering,” says Lee candidly in a Zoom interview from Hawaii, where she is currently based.
Lee, who is of Singaporean and South Korean descent, shot to global fame in 2016 as a 19-year-old MMA athlete when she inked a lucrative One Championship contract, which catapulted her to the ranks of the organisation’s top five earners.
“I am the champion of this division—and I have been since 2016. I know what it takes to capture the belt and I have defended it multiple times so this is no different,” she states with confidence.
The contender for the title is Nanthawan Panthong, better known as Stamp Fairtex, who currently holds the women’s atomweight world grand prix title. Stamp, who has been practising muay thai since she was five, was discovered by One Championship vice president and MMA legend Rich Franklin during the One Warrior Series try-outs and showcased her mettle by winning two One Championship world titles in muay thai and kick-boxing in less than a year.
For the upstart, the upcoming bout is not just an unprecedented opportunity to become the first three-sport champion in the organisation’s history, it is also a hard-won chance to go head-to-head against someone she personally considers a role model in martial arts.
“This is one of the most important bouts in my career as this is the best opportunity for me to prove myself to fans around the world. It is an honour for me to compete with Angela, and I want this to be an amazing fight,” says Stamp, via a translator.
And to add to the excitement of it all, they will do so in grand style as the headliners at One X, the organisation’s 10th-anniversary extravaganza at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, its first full attendance event since the pandemic.
Chatri Sityodtong, the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of One Championship, is certain this match-up will draw crowds.
Read more: 5 Minutes With... Chatri Sityodtong
“This match is obviously super interesting on paper because of the clash of styles. You have Stamp, who is the most dangerous striker in the atomweight division bar none. There aren’t many fighters who can stand up to her, punch for punch or kick for kick,” he observes.
“Then you have Angela, who is just as dominant on the ground. When she gets an opponent to the canvas, she is unstoppable. It’s only a matter of time before she finds a weakness and exploits it. What I’m looking forward to the most is watching these fighters overcome each other’s strengths.”