One Championship star Angela Lee is a recognised name in the MMA scene but in recent months, she’s been taking time off. And it’s not just due to the pandemic — the atomweight champion has recently welcomed her bundle of joy.

The 25-year-old mixed martial arts champion, who’s married to fellow fighter Bruno Pucci, gave birth to their firstborn Ava Marie Pucci in April this year. They are now based in Hawaii, and training at her family-run gym headed by her father, Ken Lee.

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But motherhood hasn’t kept the fighter away from the gym for long. Less than three months after her delivery, she’s already made her way back onto the mats in preparation for a comeback, tell us that she is in the midst of a two-month training program for postpartum athletes.

The ONE women’s atomweight champion shares more about being a first-time mother, the toughest aspect of returning to training after a hiatus, and weighs in on postpartum health, fitness and self-care tips for fellow new mums.

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How has the mum life been treating you so far, and what have you been up to? Could you tell us about your postpartum journey?

Angela Lee (AL): Motherhood has been a beautiful journey — it is everything I imagined and at the same time, more than I could have ever imagined! I never knew I could love someone so much — that is until Ava came along and shifted my world. It is a unique and beautiful bond that we share and she has become my number 1 priority and my why.

Mum life has its downs too so there are days that I really struggle. It didn’t work out when I attempted to return back immediately to the way it was. I have since learnt to listen to my body and have been practicing patience with myself. Currently, I am in the midst of completing an eight-week training programme for postpartum athletes. I also occasionally train with my husband and siblings at United MMA under my dad, who’s also my coach. I am still easing back into things and have not gone back to a rigorous training schedule like how I was used to just yet.

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Who’s the stricter parent? You or Bruno?

AL: So far… neither of us! Ava Marie can do no wrong at this age!

Has motherhood changed you? What did you not expect about motherhood?

AL: Definitely. Motherhood has changed me completely. I never knew how much I could love someone. She really is the definition of true love. Now, my number one priority is my daughter. She is my motivation, she is my reason and my why. She makes me want to strive to be the best person that I can be.

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Now that you’re back to training, what’s the hardest part about it? What’s your fitness, nutrition and daily regimen like now, especially now that you have a baby to care for?

AL: The most difficult part is to manage my own expectations and to be patient with my progress. Results are not immediate and I do have to remind myself that often. A typical day for me looks like this:

Waking up with my daughter Ava around 7am while my husband feeds and takes care of all three of our dogs. Ava and I then get ready and change. We have breakfast and then head to the gym where training begins at 8.30am. Sometimes I train and I’ll only drill but other days, I spend time with Ava and my sister-in-law Katie and her daughter Alia while Bruno trains with my siblings Christian, Victoria, and Adrian.

As for my diet, I am not restricting myself currently but I do try to keep to an 80/20 guideline where I eat clean for the most of it as I still love getting my sweets occasionally. I also need to make sure I’m getting enough nutrients for both Ava and I since I’m exclusively breastfeeding her and she eats a lot.

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Did you work out during the pregnancy? When did you stop, and what’s your advice for pregnant women looking to keep fit?

AL: Yes, I did continue to work out during my pregnancy but I adjusted the intensity and frequency as I got further along. Every woman is different. Our bodies are different and our babies are different.

I think that we should definitely be the ones to judge what we can do and at what pace. I would only recommend that they make sure the exercises they are doing are what they feel confident doing. It is completely okay for women to want to work out, diet, and lose the baby weight but it’s also completely okay for women to be comfortable and happy with their bodies.

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What would you say to new mums looking to get fit and strong after having a baby?

AL: Take it slow, make a plan but be flexible. It may be hard to stick to a specific schedule because, with a baby, so many things pop up! Give yourself lots of grace and be proud of the effort you’re making!

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Are there any fights lined up that we can look forward to, or are they still on hold due to the pandemic?

AL: I am getting ready to be back for a fight by the end of the year.

This story originally appeared in Singapore Women’s Weekly