Angela Lee and MMA’s project to crack the $18 tn-plus Asian marketplace

The Canadian boxer is a heart-pounding geniu, and could become a huge ace in countries where martial art are a huge part of the culture

Angela Lee craves beings to think of her as a typical young woman, but thats difficult to accept debating what shes already done.

Im a ordinary person who happens to be a fighter and a nature champ, Lee, 20, tells the Guardian. The Canadian-born, Hawaii-raised boxer says this with a chuckle and indisputable honesty. Many people in her life, including those who make money off her, paint a picture of an athlete positioned to breakout big-hearted in Asia her father is from Singapore and her mother is South Korean at a time when the continent is beginning to follow mixed martial arts in ways it was unable to before.

Asian audiences are just now starting to engage in Asian content. All weve ever had access to was North American and European content. We were not prolific in producing caliber Asian material. Im talking world-class material. Athletics or soap operas, its very new, said promoter Victor Cui, the CEO International of ONE Championship, an MMA advertisement focused on house idols such as Lee in Asia. The behavior I look at it is this: Asia is extremely used to seeing world icons in martial arts, like Michelle Yeoh in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Viewing a talented female martial artist is not something foreign in Asia, which is why I conceive Angela is so quickly accepted.

I dont think theres a ceiling to Lees potential, added Cui, a former ESPN executive.

Lee, who is unbeaten seven pushes into her professional MMA career, deserves at least a mention alongside “the worlds largest” heart-pounding promises in the sport. Lee captured the championship loop in ONEs atomweight disagreement last year, and after defending it for the first time in March she is positioned to become the first breakout fighter of Asian drop-off in many years, with possibilities for widespread prestige looming.

At the start of Lees career in Asia she was quizzed on her background and heritage. Soon she learned how to respond. She was half-Korean, half-Chinese Singaporean, she told parties, born in Canada and raised in Hawaii. Thats kind of a morsel, Lee clarified, but as the means and devotee bases in different parts of Asia began to understand her legend they instantly abode her. Im a mix of everything and I think thats a plus. It gives me more event culturally knowing that Ive been to these different places around the world.

Lee was also shaped by the women pioneers who came before her Gina Carano, Cris Cyborg and Ronda Rousey. It acquired me want to pursue this even more, Lee said. I was training and competing and considering them do their thing on Tv and being able to travel and do what they cherish, it just really stimulated me. I never had a fantasized in my imagination that I wasnt going to make it.

My great grandma actually watches the fights. Shes not scared of anything. I think thats why it kind of extends in our blood in their own families. Were all fighters in some sense.

Unlike Carano, Cyborg and Rousey, from her earliest know-hows in martial arts Lee was molded as a challenger with a full arsenal. That foot caused a dynamic and vigorous fighter, who to this quality has sought to finish her adversaries in a variety of ways.

Coming from a martial art family and being introduced to the sport at such a young age, I just kind of grew up in it, Lee said. This is all I kind of knew. Martial artistries was a great part of my life it ever has been. I didnt got a second option when it came to career choice. I didnt assure myself being a schoolteacher or a doctor or something like that. I knew I wanted to do something MMA related.

Observers of mixed contending have anticipated an advent of young opponents who would be well versed in all aspects of MMA from impressing to wrestling from the moment they first stepped into the enclosure. Lee is surely an example of that, and her flair has been a boon to ONE Championship. The advertisement, a partner to the Singaporean government, signed Lee ahead of her professional introduction in 2015 and rapidly redoubled down with a contract that stimulated Lee amongst the highest paid female boxers in MMA.

My advantage is that from the beginning I learned mixed martial arts as a whole, Lee said. You can see it from transition periods from the standup to the floor and everything in between.

Because of Lee and their stable of 450 fighters, ONE has suffered explosive proliferation over the past five years, claiming between 10 to 50 occasions the revelation in Asia compared to the industry guiding UFC.

We have been more fortunate in that there is one common denominator in countries around the world, which is martial art, said Cui. Its the only boast that is truly Asian. Its been the residence of martial art for the last 5,000 times. Every country we go to at its core has some model of martial arts that theyre fiercely proud of.

So we actually get into a country and we dont need to educate anybody that sport, whereas if we were delivering ice hockey to every country we would need to educate them who the Edmonton Oilers were everywhere we go. But whether youre a five-year-old girl or a 105 -year-old grandmother you know what the best martial artists are like and when two people come together theres nothing to explain.

Considering MMAs business model is less than a part century old-time, the potential for Asia to objection UFCs dominance should not be dismissed.

Were at the very early days, literally scratching the surface of what the opportunity is, Cui said. I think youre going to see more and more our content and Tv ratings starting to dominate because of the combination of our live program, the play, our local heroes and the simplicity of the rules. If we are still to exponentially originate on social media with material, mortal, for us to stumble a billion impress in the first quarter and it took us a year last year I was truly shocked.

The potential gathering in Asia has Cui most excited. During a panel discussion on Asias entrepreneurs earlier this month in Los Angeles, Cui have also pointed out that China was positioned to spend $18 tn on athletics in the next 20 years. In 2016, Cui moved his office from Singapore to Shanghai to focus on developing their Chinese business.

The advantage with Asia is the rest of the world does want to see who the next Bruce Lee is, Cui said. They want to see who the next Asian athlete is[ in engagement boasts ]. There is a legitimate interest among fans to envision what Asians are going to be the best in the world. Thats not common in any other boast. No one is waiting for the next Chinese champ in tennis.

In March, Lee called Shanghai to conduct a workshop with Nike. Unlike in the US, where big firebrands have remained reticent to fully support MMA especially after humiliating mishaps with the likes of perturbed former UFC champion Jon Jones that stimulated Nike to pull back from MMA in North America the Asian line-up of the business has been ripe for promotion. Disneys Marvel, for example, are associated with ONE Championship to launch its movies to Asian audience.

Lee is also a big plus for any promotion are aiming to make inroads in Asia.[ Brands] are becoming more inclined to have an Angela Lee working with them, said Cui. If she was fluent in Chinese that would be amazing.

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