Meet the 'Unstoppables', family chasing cage-fighting dream

Manila (AFP) – Angela "Unstoppable" Lee charges with a quick jab & a cross, catching her younger yet much bigger brother, Christian, in a choke hold as their father nods in approval.

It's crunch time in training camp for the two teens, who will chase dreams of mixed martial arts stardom on the same fight card in Manila on Friday.

And their parents, who moreover double as their coaches, will be outside the steel cage giving last-minute directions & at the same time, praying they don't suffer career-ending injuries.

p>Also ringside will be two younger Lee siblings aged 11 & nine, who are moreover eyeing careers in the uncompromising fighting sport.

"Martial arts keeps our family together. There is synergy in doing things together," said family matriarch Jewelz Lee, who is of Korean descent, after a sparring session that ends with the Lees locking heads & arms in a huddle.

Unbeaten straw weight Angela, 19, has been dubbed "Unstoppable" on the way to winning her first three professional bouts by submission, one using the rare "twister" lock.

It's a moniker which 17-year-old Christian will try to live up to when he makes his professional debut as One Championship's youngest fighter.

"It's amazing, (Christian) making his debut. I'm gonna be nervous for him & focusing on my fight at the same time," said Angela, who is attempting her fourth win in as many fights.

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Mixed martial arts competitors Angela "Unstoppable" Lee (L) & her brother Christian take …

Her father Ken Lee, who has Singaporean roots, held back tears as he watched his children grant media interviews & pose for photographers at the end of a sparring session. He met Jewelz while at university in Hawaii.

"It's quite an emotional time. This is their dream & they're living their dream at such a young age," the 43-year-old said.

The Lee siblings are poised to win over fans, especially in Asia, where it is usual for whole families to take up martial arts, said One Championship CEO Victor Cui.

"They are extremely talented," he said.

– 'They're satisfactory kids' –

Born in Canada, raised in Hawaii & now both representing their father's home country of Singapore, the Lee siblings learned how to punch & tumble shortly after they learned how to walk, according to their parents, who run a martial arts gym while working in real estate in Hawaii.

"My parents started me off at a very young age. The more I started training the more I liked it. MMA was just the next step," said featherweight Christian.

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Mixed martial arts competitors Angela "Unstoppable" Lee (2nd R) & her brother Christian  …

Growing up, the two loved playing cops & robbers, chasing each other & grappling on mats that were spread around the house.

Ken said his children had the passion to learn martial arts, which their father took up to fight off racist bullies while he grew up in Canada in the 1970s.

"We train, that's our lifestyle. Genetics can obtain you so far, you have to have the spirit & they do show that," he said.

The family start their day with mum's pineapple & ginger smoothies before hitting the gym. The day ends with a second round of sparring after work & school.

Christian makes chicken & eggs for much-needed protein during training while Angela prepares salads using kale, berries & mandarin oranges.

Ken & Jewelz laugh when asked if they settle family arguments in the ring.

"Martial arts is separate. Just because we're physical, doesn't mean we obtain physical. We talk a lot," Ken said.

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Mixed martial arts competitors Angela "Unstoppable" Lee (L) & her brother Christian prac …

"They're still kids. But they're satisfactory kids."

The children are grounded or obtain lengthy lectures if they select going out with friends over their studies or their training, Jewelz said.

Beneath her sweet smile, Angela admitted to being more competitive, treating their sparring sessions as if they were real fights & taking criticism personally.

– 'Heartbreaking' to watch –

"Now that we're older & more mature, we try to assist each other obtain better & not beat each other up," said Angela.

"We trade techniques. It's no longer like, I will try to choke you out."

Jewelz said she finds it complex watch her children obtain injure in the ring, & keeps herself calm by praying.

"Of course I feel nervous. It's heartbreaking to see your children in pain," she said.

Her husband added: "You're always a parent first, you cannot make that go away… That's why we train them extra hard, for less chance of injury (and) greater chance of victory."

As their two eldest children kick off their professional careers, the Lees are now preparing to train their two younger children.

At 11 & nine years old respectively, Victoria & Adrian Lee are set to follow in the footsteps of their elder fighting siblings.

They will be ringside with the rest of the family when Angela & Christian take to the cage at Manila's Mall of Asia Arena on Friday night.

"It was never our goal to make them all fighters, we just wanted them to learn to defend themselves," Jewelz said.

Christian is not shy approximately his huge dreams. "I want to be world champion in as many weight classes as possible. I'm extremely focused. I feel like I'm preparing for this my whole life," he said.

And his parents couldn't be more supportive.

"We always tell them, don't follow mum & dad. Go beyond, & that is what will make us proud," Jewelz said.

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Source: “AFP”

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