In 2017, ONE Championships Atomweight Champion Angela Lee suffered career-threatening injuries in a car crash where she reportedly fell asleep at the wheel. On September 19, Lee corrected the details of that crash in both an emotional video posted on the ONE Championship’s YouTube page and an article in The Player Tribune.
Lee revealed “My car crash in November 2017 was not an accident. It was a suicide attempt.” She would go on to explain “I was getting ready for my last title defense of the year, things started to snowball for me. Pressure, stress, and expectations all began to build up. I had tunnel vision and thought that this upcoming fight was the most important thing in my life. Looking back now, I had everything I could have wanted at the time, but I didn’t realize it. Didn’t fully appreciate it. Because I had gotten to a place where making weight for that fight was the biggest thing in the world to me.”
“I told myself: If you don’t get this done, you’ll lose everything. And, as an athlete, in all honesty, that mentality can be useful and motivating. But it’s also a double-edged sword. And, with me, I got to a point where I had pushed my mind and body too far. I couldn’t stop thinking about the shame that would result if I wasn’t able to make the fight…” Lee goes on to explain how she had never missed a competition in her life, especially due to a weight cut, and that was further stress on top what she was already experiencing.
All of this took what was already a monumental task and made it exponentially tougher on her emotionally.
Lee needed a way out of the fight so she admits she attempted to injure herself in training as a way to have a reason for pulling out of the fight. She attempted to break her own arm before trying to give herself a concussion as a means to be able to pull out of the fight. When those methods didn’t give her the results she was seeking, Lee took things a step further.
She decided she needed a drive to contemplate things and that is when Lee decided to make a decision.
“I just pressed my foot all the way down on the gas pedal. As far down as it would go, I don’t know how fast I was going. But it was as fast as my car could move. I wanted to hit the guardrail as hard as I could, and I just remember turning the steering wheel and swerving and then hitting something, and then it was just … rolling.”
Lee recounts waking up inside her car after it had settled at the bottom of the hill she had driven over by explaining “when I opened my eyes, I was upside down. There was shattered glass everywhere. I remember waiting around in that car for a good bit of time, hanging upside down, just basically trying to process everything. Like…. Am I still here? Am I alive?”
Lee then had the emotional task of disclosing to only her husband the nature of her car crash despite the media reports of her falling asleep. Lee explained further about her healing process from this event saying “Everything about this healing process has been a challenge, of course…each time that I share my story with another person … I still cry. Tears still fall. My voice still trembles. But, each time, it gets a little bit better.”
“At this point, I’m just trying my best each day, and every day that looks different. But I’m OK with that. I realize now that I’m only human, we all are. We aren’t meant to live a perfect, spotless life. I’ve come to learn that this life, it’s life. It’s about growing and learning to accept yourself. Some days are good, some are tough, but each day I choose to keep fighting…”
The now 27-year-old is still a wife and a mother and is now looking to use her experience to help others, especially in the fight game, with their mental health. She turned her focus on her own mental health and made it a way for others to get better as well by launching the non-profit organization Fightstory. Their launch came on March of this year just four months after Lee’s sister and fellow ONE Championship fighter Victoria Lee tragically passed away. At the time of her passing, it was only understood as sudden and not expected but in her story to The Player Tribune, Angela Lee explained more.
“On Dec. 26, 2022, my younger sister, Victoria, took her own life.” Lee went on to write “Fightstory was inspired by Victoria and the remarkable life that she lived at just 18 years old. Fightstory is just as much hers as it is mine. It’s something we created together, to save lives and to try and make the world a better place. We want people to know that although you may feel lonely in your fight with mental health, you are not alone.”
While Lee may not be in the cage fighting, she has signed the most important and meaningful bout agreement in her life, helping others. She is all-in on Fightstory and living a life that she and her family can be proud of. Fighting inside a cage takes a backseat to the fights everyone faces outside of them.
Her organization is going to save lives, don’t underestimate that fact. On this Suicide Prevention Week, Lee ended her story with a simple reminder for everyone by saying “If you are struggling right now, if you are in a dark place, if you are contemplating ending your life, let us be the ones to say, we understand. We know how you feel…”
If you are the person Angela Lee is talking to, there are resources. Visit 988lifeline.org to find a number where you can have someone to talk to or chat with if talking isn’t easy.
None of this is easy but it doesn’t need to be a fight you face alone.