Angela Lee details decision to retire from MMA: ‘I just knew that my heart wasn’t in it’

Angela Lee was forever changed after the tragic death of her sister Victoria Lee at 18. But she didn’t know how that traumatic event would alter her fight career until months later.

This past weekend at ONE Fight Night 14 in Singapore, Lee officially announced her retirement from MMA. She also relinquished the atomweight title she held as the Asia-based promotion’s inaugural champion. The decision didn’t come lightly, but it was ultimately the culmination of her attempts to get back in the cage, only to realize she didn’t have in her the desire to compete any longer.

“It wasn’t a single moment I would say,” Lee said when addressing her retirement on The MMA Hour. “Because for me, after [my sister’s death], everything has changed. I tried to do some things like I used to do before. I tried to go back into the gym. I tried to do a training session. Just all of these memories and mixed emotions started coming up, and I just knew that I was not in a place to put myself back in the cage and in the spotlight in that kind of way. I would be compromising my health if I were to do that.

“So I just knew that my heart wasn’t in it fully, and if that’s not in alignment, then why am I doing it? There’s no reason to.”

Prior to her announcement, Lee penned an article for The Player’s Tribune where she addressed her mental health and detailing how a devastating 2017 car crash that nearly ended her career was actually attempted suicide. It was in that same article where Lee revealed that her sister Victoria took her own life.

In the aftermath of her sister’s death, Lee decided to turn her focus on helping people dealing with the same struggles that she’s faced, which led to the start of her own non-profit organization called FightStory.

That’s where Lee now wants to devote her time, which only cemented her decision to stop fighting and put MMA behind her.

“This has been something that I have been thinking about a lot for the past year,” Lee said. “I’m just at peace with my decision and the next steps moving forward for me. I have nothing but great memories and no regrets at all. I just know that this is the right thing to do right now at this moment and just really excited to move forward with FightStory, the non-profit organization.”

Lee hopes through FightStory she’s able to provide a platform for others who need help just like she did.

The 27-year-old Hawaiian had to practice what she preached, which is what led to Lee openly addressing her own mental health struggles and the attempted suicide she had never discussed publicly.

“When I decided to honor my sister this way by creating FightStory and this non-profit, one of the main goals through FightStory is sharing stories and being open, sharing these experiences,” Lee said. “I thought to myself how can I lead this initiative if I don’t step forward myself and be honest and transparent with what’s happened in my life.

“Thankfully now I’m at a point in my life where I have healed and I’m in a space where I’m OK to talk about that and what I went through. I think it’s important for the world to see the truth of what we go through, not just athletes or fighters, but as human beings.”

As for her own future, Lee acknowledges that the loss of her sister will remain omnipresent in her life but she’s finding new purpose through FightStory as well as motherhood.

In showing strength and resolve for her daughter, Lee plans to devote all of her time to her family and her non-profit with fighting now behind her.

“I’m doing my best,” Lee said. “I kind of have to. I have no choice. I have a 2-year-old daughter who is depending on me.

“I think that losing someone is something that you never get over because you’re always going to be missing them and that love that you have for them is always going to be there. Just learning how to move forward and to live life now differently is something that I’m still learning to do.”

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