Angela Lee’s 2017 car crash wasn’t an accident. It was a suicide attempt.
In a first-person article published Tuesday by The Players Tribune, Lee made the startling admission and opened up about the circumstances that led to her trying to kill herself.
Lee was 21 at the time and coming off the first two defenses of her ONE Championship atomweight title. She’d had a fight booked against challenger Mei Yamaguchi slated for November 24, 2017, in Singapore. As the fight drew closer, Lee put a lot of pressure on herself, especially to make weight, which “was the biggest thing in the world” to her.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about the shame that would result if I wasn’t able to make the fight,” Lee wrote. “As someone who had never missed any competition in her entire life, that terrified me. It became all-encompassing. And, ultimately, I got to a point where I would rather take myself out of the equation than deal with what might come.
“That’s where my head was at. It was all or nothing.”
Lee said “everything came crashing down on Nov. 6,” which she described as “the longest night of my life.” She was at home on the Hawaiian island of Oahu already trying to cut weight gradually in accordance with ONE’s hydration testing. And she was struggling – hard.
“I was trying to stay in the fight, mentally,” Lee wrote. “Trying to stay strong, but I felt myself slipping. I was terrified and exhausted and at my limit, and all of these negative, dark thoughts started flooding in.”
When the scale revealed that she still had 12 pounds to lose, it felt impossible.
“I broke. I didn’t care anymore,” Lee wrote. “I kept going back and forth with thoughts in my head. Talking myself in and out of possibilities. I wanted to escape. I told myself: I have to take myself out of this fight.
“And that’s when things got really bad.”
In the middle of the night, Lee said she went into a bathroom and tried breaking her own arm and giving herself a concussion so she could use an injury as a reason to withdraw from the fight.
“When those things didn’t work,” Lee wrote, “I decided to get in my car and leave it up to fate to see what happens next.”
Lee drove down a road near her house and found a spot to drive over a cliff. Lee said she hesitated to follow through on her first try and ended up driving back, this time pressing on her gas pedal as hard as she could to go through the guard rail.
Lee’s car flipped over five or six times, but she miraculously survived the crash with only a concussion and some minor burns. At the time and up until her admission, the story was that she fell asleep at the wheel. Lee said she was inspired by her younger sister, Victoria Lee, to create Fightstory, a nonprofit organization, earlier this year and come clean about her suicide attempt now. Victoria, a fellow former ONE fighter, took her own life at 18, which wasn’t publicly known until now.
“Fightstory is dedicated to speaking one’s truth, inspiring hope, and building a community for those struggling with mental health,” Lee wrote. “It was created to bring healing, awareness, acceptance, and support for those battling through their darkest times, and for their loved ones as well.
“No battle needs to be walked alone.”
Lee, now 27 and still ONE atomweight champ, hasn’t competed in 2023. She last fought in October 2022, dropping a unanimous decision to Xiong Jing Nan in a strawweight title fight.