Name: Lee Ye-Ji
Lee Ye-Ji will be facing off against Hana Date this Saturday at Road FC 32. A young and active fighter, Lee picked up her first win recently, via submission. At 16 years old, Lee looks to be part of a new pool of young talent that is emerging. While her record is 1-2, it is worth noting that Lee's two losses are to Hisae Watanabe and Satoko Shinashi, a rough two fights for any fighter beginning their career.
CJ: You're still quite young at 16, can you talk about how you got into martial arts? When and why did you start mma?
I competed in an amateur tournament 1 month after beginning MMA. And I was fascinated and addicted to the charm of it. My parents objected at first because MMA is an intense sport. But now they’re supporting and cheering me affirmatively.
CJ: You're coming off of a submission victory, can you talk about that fight?
Lee: My initial strategy was to try to grasp and take in the situation until the after the half of the first round, just throwing punches. Then after the half, I planned to fight it out to the finish. That was my strategy.
But when the match just started, right out of the box, we were clinching and coming to a deadlock. So, I thought that trying out some skills or techniques at that time would not be helpful in managing the match, it would just make me exhausted. So I just throw some more punches and tried to find a chance. And then I found a chance to do armbar on her. I had practiced that armbar every day. So I was able to finish her with an armbar.
CJ: Your first two fights were Satoko Shinashi and Hisae Watanabe, what was it like facing two older legends right away?
Lee: I knew that I had less experiences and abilities than those opponents. I was a fighter of little experience. My goal was not concentrated on winning the match. I wanted to grow and get through the fights with those veteran fighters. I wanted to become much better fighter.
As a result, the matches taught me many points. I learned lot from them through the fights. Even if I could go back before those matches, I would still accept them again. Because I think they are what brought me up to the present. Those made me as a fighter. If I took matches with fighters who had similar careers and abilities as me, I don’t think that I could become the fighter who I’ve come to be now.
CJ: Your next fight is against Hana Date, who is closer to you in age and record. What do you think of her as an opponent? How do you think the fight will go?
Lee: I think that she's just an opponent I have to face and strike at during fighting. Just one Japanese fighter.
I will fight whomever I'm told to face and win no matter what happens. Of course I will win this match. Especially, I want a victory because the day after the match day is my birthday and I want to celebrate it that way.
CJ: At 16, I imagine you're still in school, how often are you at the gym? Can you talk about your training?
Lee: I go to the gym every day. Even when I have no upcoming match, I eat dinner and then go to the gym after regular school hours end. Nowadays, as you know, I have an upcoming match this time, so I leave the class before it is dismissed, earlier than usual. I train and practice. And take a rest for a while in the afternoon. And I practice and train again. Once I have completed the training and practice, it's usually 11:30 PM.
CJ: Can you describe how you like to fight? What areas of mma do you like or dislike?
Lee: Although it's a the women’s MMA match, I want to fight with no reservations and make the audience really enjoy the match.
I go through all the combat sports. Regardless, I really enjoy all the martial arts. However, I have relatively short striking range because I don't have that long of a reach, so I feel easier and more comfortable when I am doing grappling.
CJ: Are there any fighters you look up to or that inspire you?
Lee: Jeon Chan-Jun who is my coach and director of my team now, because I have learned so many things about MMA from him. I want to follow him and be like him. And sometimes when I feel tired and have a hard time mentally, he tightens control of me to make ma train and practice again. I am grateful to him. Thank you, coach, really.
CJ: You've been fighting a lot, how many times would you like to fight in a year?
Lee: This the 3rd match of this year for me. I think that it seems that it’s appropriate - 3 matches a year. My maximum could be 4 matches a year? I think I can fight up to 4 matches. OK! I've decided. 3 to 4 matches a year would be the best. If I fight more, I worry it might take its toll on my body. But I don’t want to avoid taking an opportunity when it comes to me. I appreciate all the times when opportunity comes.
Lee: I train and practice all the time even though I have no upcoming match. Usually I am in the gym. I help the coach and teach a kids' MMA class. When I have time to rest, I meet my friends and I eat meals and have conversation together with them. And I really enjoy watching movies and shopping alone. When I am alone, it helps me to arrange my thoughts and ideas calmly. So, I enjoy being alone sometimes.
CJ: Is there anything you want to say? Anyone you would like to thank?
Lee: I am so happy and excited to take part in this large-scale event held in China, it's abroad for me. As I feel happy and excited, I want to fight well and perform nicely.
My coach always takes care of me, I want to tell him again that I thank him and I am sorry when I give him problems. I will certainly win this match, so I want to make my coach, parents, and fans happy.
I'd like to thank Lee Ye-Ji for taking the time to answer these questions. You can watch her fight Hana Date at Road FC 32 on July 2. Road FC 32 PPV. If my math is correct, it'll air at 8:00 A.M EST on Saturday.