It's no easy task balancing a professional martial arts career with motherhood.
However, ONE Championship's mom-champs, Angela Lee and Allycia Hellen Rodrigues, have proven that both goals can be attained simultaneously.
ONE women's atomweight world champion "Unstoppable" Angela Lee gave birth to her first child, Ava Marie Pucci, in April 2021.
Just 11 months later, the Singaporean-American MMA superstar was tasked with defending her crown against Stamp Fairtex at the promotion's 10-year anniversary show, ONE X, on March 26.
Stamp entered the contest as arguably the most imposing force in the "Unstoppable" athlete's career. Not only did the challenger previously hold gold in the promotion's muay Thai and kickboxing ranks, but she had just won three straight MMA fights to become the ONE Women's atomweight world grand prix champion.
Needless to say, it was a huge challenge for Lee.
After being away from active competition for two-and-a-half years, she suddenly entered an eight-week training camp while raising a baby girl. In addition, there were many critics who were convinced that Lee wouldn't be able to find her fire again.
But the Singaporean-American blocked out the noise. She was determined to silence those critics and, most importantly, be a role model to her daughter.
Lee trained diligently at her family's United MMA gym in Hawaii, and she was able to concentrate on her preparation thanks to some help from her innermost circle.
"I have a lot of help, which I'm so grateful for," Lee said. "My husband (fellow MMA fighter Bruno Pucci) helped to watch and take care of Ava for a couple of training sessions, and then my mom also helped to watch Ava for the other training sessions."
Teamwork makes the dream work, and in Lee's case, this paid dividends at ONE X.
After overcoming adversity in the form of a liver shot during the opening stanza, the Singaporean-American brought Stamp to the ground, locked in a rear-naked choke and forced her to tap out with just 10 seconds left in round two of their main event battle.
Lee's performance was a testament to the determination and willpower that every mother must establish to overcome the obstacles they deal with during pregnancy – emotional changes, weight gain, and fatigue, just to name a few.
And in her post-fight interview, the "Unstoppable" mom-champ held her daughter in the cage and credited the child for her newfound motivation.
"This little girl right here is the reason you guys saw the best performance from me," Lee said. "I trained harder than ever and pushed myself more than ever.
"Because of her and because of my amazing team – United MMA and United BJJ – I transformed into this world champion you see today. So thank you, Ava Marie. Mama did it for you, baby girl."
That has inspired plenty of like-minded athletes, and ONE's other current mom-champ, Rodrigues is hoping to follow suit.
Like Lee, the ONE atomweight muay Thai world champion had to find an equal balance between motherhood and her career.
Rodrigues took to Instagram throughout her pregnancy to share how she trained – even in her final trimester. Her muay Thai weapons were constantly kept in form for nine months as she regularly trained in Caucaia, Brazil.
There were obvious limitations, but nothing stopped her from uncorking her crunching knees, elbows, and combinations – the same weapons that helped her claim the belt from Stamp at "ONE: A New Breed" in August 2020.
On Sept. 27 last year, Rodrigues welcomed her baby boy, Josue. And from then up to now, her transformation back into fight mode has been nothing short of impressive.
Lee and Rodrigues are shining examples that being a professional athlete does not necessarily mean that one has to set motherhood aside, and perhaps other female fighters will follow their footsteps in the future.