Angela Lee's home is full of sounds that every new parent knows well—sounds that hung in the background as she deftly shifted from her duties as a mother to her duties as the ONE atomweight champion and picked up the phone for an interview.
"I love being a mom so much," the 25-year-old told Bleacher Report as her husband, fellow fighter Bruno Pucci, tended to their cooing, three-month-old daughter nearby. "I just love my daughter. It's amazing—more than I could have imagined.
"In the beginning, there wasn't much sleep, but things are getting much better," she added. "It's so cool how every new day, I'm learning something new, and she's doing something new. Everything we do, it's like experiencing it for the first time, because it's the first time she's doing it. It's really neat."
From the moment Lee announced her pregnancy in October 2020, she was adamant that she intended to return to the ONE Championship cage before the end of 2021. Unfortunately, getting back into fighting shape has come with its share of challenges—challenges that are difficult to accept when you're used to being at the top of your field.
"I was actually forced to eat pretty healthily for most of my pregnancy because my daughter would not let me eat oily foods or fatty foods," Lee said with a laugh. "I couldn't stand any meat—especially red meat, steak—which is crazy, because I usually love that.
"After I got cleared by my doctor, six or seven weeks after my daughter was born, I wanted to get back into training," she continued. "It's pretty difficult. The first few times, I took it really slow, but of course, being an athlete my whole life I wanted to get things going. I jumped into a couple of light sparring rounds, even grappling, and it's so different. Mentally, my mind knows what to do in positions, and I'll try to move in a certain way, and then it'll hurt—it'll be sharp, I'll feel something somewhere—and I'll have to pull back and end up doing the wrong move. That's frustrating, where mentally I know what to do, but my body just won't cooperate.
"I'm trying to work on patience and giving my body grace."
As Lee works on returning to her former form, she's drawing inspiration from the likes of Miesha Tate, Rachael Ostovich and Michelle Waterson—women she considers friends, all of whom happen to be mothers and world-class professional fighters.
"[Tate] is an inspiration, 100 percent," Lee said, referencing the former UFC bantamweight champion, who recently mounted her own comeback after giving birth to two children. "She reached out to me multiple times throughout my pregnancy and postpartum, just giving advice.
"My friend Rachael Ostovich has a daughter, too. Also, another woman that I messaged a couple of times is Michelle Waterson. I watched her documentary, Fight Mom, and it's super-inspiring. I think I'm going to watch it again to get me through the tough times.
"It's not an easy thing to do: Being a mom is the toughest job in the world, then on top of that, being a fighter-mom is just another level. It's so nice that I'm able to reach out to women like them who have gone through the process of having babies and getting back to [fighting], because right now, this is my first time. I don't know what to expect. I don't know when my body's supposed to feel back to normal. I just feel very lucky that I'm able to reach out to these women. It helps, because you feel like you're not alone. Other people have gone through this and came out on top—so I know I will too."
Coming out on top is, as always, what Lee strives to do.
Despite the difficulties she's encountered as she looks to get back into fighting shape, the decorated ONE titleholder is sticking to her initial projection and aims to be ready to compete again by the time the year is out.
"I'm shooting for the end of the year," she said. "That's my goal: to be back in tip-top shape and ready to fight."
Lee will return to a division that is packed with top talent, including stars like Denice Zamboanga, Seo Hee Ham, Meng Bo, Alyona Rassohyna, Stamp Fairtex and Itsuki Hirata, all of whom seem to be in arm's reach of an atomweight title shot.
The champion is eager to get back into the cage and start vanquishing those contenders and, despite the difficult she's had recovering from her pregnancy, expects to do so with new levels of ferocity.
After all, she now has a whole new reason to fight.
"I'm longing to get back into the cage and get that feeling back," Lee said. "I have so much more to fight for now. Mixed martial arts has always been an outlet for me. I'm going to channel all of this energy into my next fight. It's going to be Angela Lee 2.0.
"It's not going to be easy. It's going to be a long, hard road, but it's going to be so, so worth it once I get back to the top."