It is cruel to ask Angela “Unstoppable” Lee, 23, of Singapore to give up her ONE Atomweight World Championship belt just because she is pregnant. Stripping her of her belt, which she dedicated her life for, even if she did not lose to a challenger is an unreasonable punishment.
Lee should be dethroned without losing to a challenger only when she did something that put ONE Championship in a bad light or if she refused to defend her title even if she was capable of doing so. Being pregnant does not fall under those two conditions.
In the third week of September 2020, ONE Championship announced that Victoria Lee, 16, Angela’s younger sister, has joined its atomweight division. In the first week of October 2020, Angela announced that she is pregnant.
Surprisingly, some fight fans and fighters expected Angela to voluntarily dethrone herself following the announcement of her pregnancy. Unless ONE Championship has a rule that requires a pregnant champion to give up her title, this is the last thing we should be asking Angela right now.
Why should we dethrone a warrior queen just because she is pregnant?
That is cruelty. That is injustice. That is disrespect.
In the first place, there is still no end in sight when it comes to the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It should not be surprising if a mixed martial arts champion does not have a title defense for a year during this difficult time.
A woman should not be punished just because she is pregnant. It is ironic. It is ridiculous. It is sexist.
It is already 2020 (three months away from 2021, to be exact). The humankind has gone a long way when it comes to equality. Asking a pregnant woman to give up a prize she worked very hard for is the last thing we want to do to Angela and to any pregnant woman especially during this pandemic.
Speaking of 2021, Angela did promise to be back after giving birth to her first child with her husband Bruno Pucci, 30, of Brazil late next year. If she refuses to do so before 2022, that is the time we can ask her to vacate the title.
Instead of asking Angela to give up her title, we should be cheering her like we did when she impressively defended her title not just once, not just twice but four times.
The atomweight division of ONE Championship will not collapse if the reigning champion does not defend the belt until late 2021. If fans are too eager to see a title bout in this division, the promotion can crown an interim champion aside from the upcoming grand prix tournament in this weight class.
Before becoming the inaugural ONE Atomweight World Champion by beating Yamaguchi in 2016, Angela had to finish Aya “Shekisa” Saied Saber, 29, of Egypt, Mona Samir, of Egypt, Natalie “The Kilapino” Gonzales Hills, 32, of Australia, Lena Tkhorevska, 31, of Poland and Rebecca “The Professor” Heintzman, 34, of the United States consecutively from 2015 to 2016.
From 2017 to 2019, Angela successfully defended her title from Yamaguchi, Xiong, Jenny “Lady GoGo” Huang, 29, of Taiwan and Istela Nunes, 28, of Brazil. Imagine going through all that then come 2020, you announce that you are pregnant and people have the audacity to ask you to give up your belt just because you have a human life in your womb.
I have to admit I am a big fan of Xiong. I celebrated when she defeated Angela at “ONE: A New Era” at the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan on March 31, 2019. I was heartbroken when Xiong lost in their rematch at “ONE: Century 世紀” at the same venue on October 12, 2019.
But that heartache does not compare to the pain Angela must be feeling while being attacked for saying that she wanted to keep her belt, which, I cannot emphasize enough, is hers.
If you are not a big fan of Angela, at least do not attack her during her pregnancy. Leave the pregnant champion alone.
Have some compassion for an expectant mother. You were given birth to by a mother, too.