In any sport, it’s extremely rare to go directly from high school to a professional level. Well, in the case of 16-year old Victoria Lee, she’s joining the ranks of MMA’s elite while in the midst of finishing up her academics.
A junior at Mililani High School in Mililani, Hawaii, Lee fully intends to graduate despite preparing for her rapidly approaching MMA debut in ONE Championship. For a variety of reasons, Lee believes there’s a lot of excitement within the community to see what she’s truly capable of.
“It’s crazy, I feel like I’m so lucky that I’m able to start my career this early,” Lee told MyMMANews. “I think it really helps with the online schooling. I get to be in the gym for extra time.
“I do feel like we do get more training in during this quarantine period. Because from 8:00 to 10:00 in the morning, I get to train whereas I would still be in school at 2:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon getting to train just starting my first session if I was still [physically] in school.”
Although she’s yet to reach adulthood, Lee is already very familiar with combat sports.
To run through some of the junior’s accomplishments, she captured a 2019 IMMAF junior world championship, is a two-time champion in Pankration, and a state wrestling champion in her home of Hawaii. On top of that, Lee’s had some pretty highly skilled individuals in her family to help prepare her.
With Lee joining the ranks of ONE, she’ll make for the third of her siblings to do so. Her older brother Christian, 22, happens to be the current ONE lightweight titleholder while their older sister, Angela, 24, has held the atomweight crown since 2016.
Essentially, Victoria couldn’t avoid a life of martial arts — at least in some capacity. Regardless, she wouldn’t have had it any other way and doesn’t feel robbed of a “normal” childhood.
“I don’t think so too much because, I guess, training martial arts for me and my siblings, the other kids grew up doing soccer, it’s just a part of our daily routine,” Lee said. “After school, we come home and we train. And on the weekends we get to compete.
“Once I was able to watch my brother and sister compete, I thought that was amazing. It wasn’t really until I got to compete in my first four championships before I really knew that that was the path that I wanted to take.”
Of course, before committing to her MMA journey, Lee paid close attention to her siblings and what they were doing. Always learning new techniques from one another and now some dieting tips and meal prep for weight cutting, she’s begun studying her fellow atomweights.
For Lee, she’s very understanding of the position she’s in. It’s not every day that you get a chance to establish your career in such a colossal way before even finishing school. Then in an even rarer instance, there are the expectations to live up to your world championship-caliber brother and sister — a presumably monumental pressure at such an early stage in life.
“It wasn’t my first choice to go straight into pro,” Lee explained. “However, it was always a dream of mine to compete in ONE Championship because that is the best organization, I believe. And when I was presented with the opportunity, I couldn’t turn it down.
“I don’t feel pressured by [Christian and Angela]. They’re my role models, I look up to them, so it’s not pressure. Our parents have taught us to run our own race and focus on our own journeys so they just motivate and inspire me.”
Creating history and doing the unthinkable is nothing new for the ever-talented Lee family. All starting earlier than most, Christian (14-3) also began his career at age 16 while Angela (10-2) got going at 18. As a result, the eldest Lee went on to become the youngest champion ever in MMA by capturing the atomweight title just a year later.
While both Lee sisters call the ONE 115-pound division home, Victoria has no intentions to try and break big sis’ record. Being the rookie, she’s noted just how super excited and focused she is to rack up experience. On Feb. 26 at ONE: Fists of Fury inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium, she’ll get to start doing just that.
Victoria Lee is set to square off with Thailand’s “Thunderstorm,” the 4-1 Sunisa Srisen in what will be the event’s opening matchup. Believed to have a well-rounded skillset based on her background and who’s been helping her, Lee isn’t looking to show off anything ultra-specific. She just knows she’s got to go out there and fight her fight to the best of her abilities.
Therefore leaving her with the expectations for high paced action that ends with her hand getting raised.
“I think it’s important to have a good balance,” Lee said of her opponent studies. “When my team strategizes against her, it’s important that we’re aware of all her strengths and weaknesses. But in the end, it’s important to focus on our gameplan and what we’re going to do in the fight.”
Drake is an MMA writer based out of Brush Prairie, Washington, USA who specializes in feature pieces, the women’s fight scene, lists, news coverage, and rankings. He has been a passionate fan of MMA ever since 2009. Drake has most notably written for BJPenn.com, FanSided, The Body Lock, South China Morning Post, MyMMANews, WhatCulture, Cageside Press, Sherdog, The Scrap, and MMA Today. He has also written for and created video content for RT Sport. As for other sports, Drake is a longtime fan of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars.
You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @DrakeRiggs_ . Also check out all of his video content on YouTube at YouTube.com/DrakeRiggs where he uploads fighter interviews, podshows, and various other types of content.