ONE Championship: Dynasty of Heroes is a big deal in Singapore

By Michael Owens in Singapore

The latest event from the promotion Forbes has called the biggest ever sports media brand in Asia (yes, bigger than Pride, though maybe not yet quite able to match it’s blockbusting arena events) takes place in the Asian city state tomorrow night – or morning in the Western world.

In the main event of Dynasty of Heroes, local hero and atomweight champion Angela Lee will defend her title for the second time against Istela Nunes of Brazil. And though Ben Askren also defends his welterweight championship and Shinya Aoki has a high-profile grappling match against Gary Tonon, tomorrow really is all about Lee.

Born in Canada to a Singaporean father and South Korean mother, Lee grew up in Hawaii, but was recruited to Evolve MMA as a teenager to live and train in as well as represent her paternal homeland in ONE. She has been a phenomenal success.

She’s pulled off some incredible finishes, had the promotion’s ‘Fight of the Year’ in 2016 and is now the face of women’s MMA in Asia. A big-ticket fighter, her fame has even helped ONE convince another high-profile athlete to come and join her on her walkout next week. Joseph Schooling, the athlete in question, is Singapore’s first Olympic swimming medalist, and the nation’s first ever gold medal winner. That alone would be enough to give him god-like status. But, when you factor in that he beat Michael Phelps to do it, that status is assured.

Schooling’s presence has brought extra local and regional media attention to an event that would otherwise have done very well at the 12,000-seater Singapore Indoor Stadium. ONE vice president and former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin told Fighters Only he expects the atmosphere to be comparable to anywhere in the world when the fans are cheering on one of their own.

That, of course, is multiplied when that one of their own is Lee. She’s young, attractive, magnetic, she can fight like hell and she’s fired up for this fight.

She said: “It’s always such an amazing feeling to be able to perform in front of my fans in Singapore. It is an honor. I promised that I would stay as active as I can this year, and this is my second fight already in just a few months. I live for challenges like these and I cannot wait to step inside the cage and to do what I love to do.”

If there is one criticism, it’s that in the past she may have played it a little safe in interviews. Tonight, though, at the public face-off event in front of a large crowd in Singapore’s Clarke Quay, Lee added a little fire to her pre-fight hype.

“I’m more than confident going into this fight, like I am with each of my fights,” she said. “I’m ready for Istela. She’s not welcome here. I’m going to defend my turf, my home.”

The Singaporean crowd lapped it up.