Singapore fighter Angela Lee has received a timely boost ahead of her second professional mixed martial arts (MMA) bout that will be held in Shanghai on Sept 1.
After impressing in tryouts, the 19-year-old and her brother Christian - a prodigious 17-year-old who will turn pro next year - became the first siblings to be inducted into the elite Evolve MMA Fight Team.
This allows them to train and spar with the gym's stable of world champion fighters - headlined by Brazilian Rafael dos Anjos, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight title-holder.
Serious about leaving her mark in the ring, Lee recently dropped out of her business administration degree course at a university in Hawaii.
Her training, equipment and other fight-related expenses will now be covered by Evolve.
"My parents have been funding me and my brother's training ever since we were young so I'm really glad that we can take that weight off their shoulders now," the bubbly teenager told The Straits Times.
In her One Championship debut at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in May, the 1.65m strawweight overcame the taller and more experienced Egyptian Aya Saber in under two minutes.
She next faces Russian Elena Pashnina at the promotion's Shanghai card.
Evolve head coach Heath Sims - who has mentored iconic fighters Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen - believes his new charge has the talent and drive to be Singapore's first MMA world champion.
"Angela has shown the world just a glimpse of her potential," said the American, who had competed at the 2000 Olympics in Greco-Roman wrestling.
"I am confident that her striking, wrestling and grappling will only improve under the guidance of everyone else on the team."
Lee owns two World Pangration Athlima Federation crowns, a state wrestling championship and an amateur MMA strawweight title.
She is the eldest of four children of MMA instructors.
Dad is Singapore-born Ken and mum is Korean Jewelz.
Describing herself as "explosive, dynamic and a finisher", Lee fights under the Singapore banner even though she was born in Vancouver and raised in Hawaii.
She explained: "I followed my dad's allegiance. Anyway, I'm looking to base myself in Singapore from this point on."
Christian, meanwhile, already holds world junior titles in Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) and grappling.
He dreams big, like his older sister.
"My goal is to one day be the best in the world," said the BJJ purple belt instructor. "But to be the best, you have to train with the best, and that's why it's such a great honour to be training alongside a legend like Shinya Aoki at Evolve."
The duo have the full support of their parents.
Ken says they are "destined to be world champions" while Jewelz endorses her daughter's decision to halt her studies, wanting her to "be happy and enjoy whatever career she pursues".
Their two youngest kids - Adrian, nine, and Victoria, 11 - are also learning the intricacies of MMA.
With such backing, Lee aims to one day follow in the fight-steps of Ronda Rousey.
The American's devastating displays in the UFC have earned her numerous endorsements and Hollywood starring roles.
Lee said: "Ronda has captured a whole new audience and is paving the way for rising female MMA stars. It is a great time for women in the sport.
" I hope to inspire more to join me and pursue their dream in the ring."
This article was first published on Aug 24, 2015.
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