MMANewsline’s Nick Portella had the opportunity to sit down with mixed martial artist Andrea “KGB” Lee, a 27-year-old female flyweight contender that has competed under for both Legacy FC and Invicta FC in her seven-fight professional career. Lee (MMA Record 5-2) last competed on January 14 at Invicta FC 21, where she defeated opponent Jenny Liou at 1:14 of Round 1 via TKO due to body strikes.
Without further delay — let’s meet Andrea!
Nick: What does it mean (for you) to be a fighter?
Andrea: Being a fighter is my opportunity to not just have a fun job but a chance to be great and passionate about something. I love that my husband and I share this passion and can pass it on to our daughter who loves having parents who fight.
Nick: At what age did you begin to train martial arts?
Andrea: I started training soon after I moved to Shreveport right after my 20th birthday.
Nick: What belts do you have and in what disciplines?
Andrea: I am a Kru Muay, a purple belt under Relson Gracie, a Judo brown belt, and I also just got promoted to black belt in Kyokushin.
Nick: With only four amateur fights under your belt, why did you decide to go to the professional level so quickly?
Andrea: Sometimes the reporting agencies don’t do as thorough a job policing amateur records. Actually I was 9-3 MMA amateur, but had over 60 amateur Muay Thai fights and USA Boxing matches where I won multiple national and world titles. I was actually an Olympic hopeful in boxing in Rio but I turned pro 2 years before the games because I didn’t want to miss my window.
Nick: How long have you been with Karate Mafia?
Andrea: I started with Karate Mafia and have never trained anywhere else outside the occasional gym visit to Cowboys BMF Ranch and James Grays SFS in Michigan. I don’t like a lot of “cooks” in my kitchen.
Nick: With an extensive background in Muay Thai and BJJ do you prefer to keep the fight on your feet or take it to the ground?
Andrea: I feel that I am a true mixed martial artist. I don’t prefer one aspect of the game over the other, but I do love the knock out (laughs), If I get a chance for a sub from mount or to curl someone’s toes up, I’d just rather drop elbows.
Nick: What would you say your biggest strengths are, and what’s the thing you need to work on the most?
Andrea: My greatest strength is just that, my strength and athleticism. I’ve fought some of the biggest, strongest flyweights in the world and I always felt faster and stronger. I’ve also been told my head movement is the best some have seen from a woman. I continue to work on not letting my pride get in the way of our game plan. In my losses it seems I’ve been my own opponent.
Nick: What’s your favorite strike/submission to use in any fight?
Andrea: My favorite striking combo is the jab, left body hook to the back leg/ leg kick. I land it all the time and crush people in sparring but it seems like I have to chase a lot of my opponents and don’t get to sit down on that one as much as I’d like. Also the Kimura is my strongest sub because I have so many ways I set it up and attack it from so many positions. But that’s just my favorite. I’m good at a lot more than just Kimuras — it’s just my favorite.
Nick: Under head coach Donny Aaron you’re fighting foundation style is Muay Thai/ BJJ. What was it like having Relson Gracie as part of your coaching staff when BJJ is a major part of your fighting style?
Andrea: I love getting mat time with Grandmaster Gracie. He can tweak a grip or a position and fix something that I’ve struggled with and couldn’t figure out why. His knowledge and ability to relay it is his greatest gift to his students. Also when he promotes you, no one with any sense will ever question it (laughs).
Nick: People talk about the next generation of fighters, and I have heard your name in the mix frequently. Do you feel that you represent that in some ways? Do you feel any pressure to represent that “next generation?”
Andrea: I do feel like I am the next generation. With the men they seem to be ten years ahead of the women sometimes but I think a new generation of women (which humbly includes me) are true MMA fighters who do it all well and not just stuck being one dimensional. The women are closing the technical gap as popularity of the sport grows.
Nick: With cutting weight and fighter safety always being a priority. What methods of cutting weight do you use? How much weight do you usually have to cut before a fight? Do you feel the weight cut has a major impact on your strength before a fight?
Andrea: I cut about 20lbs to fight. I can do it in 7-10 days and feel healthy. I’m even able to eat 3 square meals the day before weigh ins. I think Donny is the best I’ve ever seen at managing the cut. I won’t spill all his secrets but I’ve never had an unhealthy weight cut. And yes because my cut is so scientific I always get it all back by bell time. Because I’m getting back 20 lbs I (definitely) feel like the bigger, stronger girl.
Nick: In 2014 you were named amateur of the year, The WMMA press awarded you “newcomer” of the year, and you also were the recipient of the Julie Kedzie ” most exciting fighter” award. What is it like to get such recognition in your career? Did this have any impact on your training since you now have some prestigious awards under your belt?
Andrea: As you stated I received more awards than I could count namely the Julie Kedzie award twice. It didn’t affect my training though and just affirmed that I am on the right track. I remain honored to be counted among such great company.
Nick: Invicta FC is the big name in the game for all women’s MMA do you have any plans to try and get signed in the UFC or Bellator at some point in your career? If not why? If so which one and why?
Andrea: I love, love, love Invicta. I also love Legacy and literally cut my teeth inside their cage eventually winning amateur and pro titles for them. Now, in my next fight, I have the opportunity to capture the inaugural LFA title. My immediate plans are to simultaneously own the LFA and the Invicta Flyweight titles. I think it’s just a matter of time before the UFC opens the flyweight division but until then I’m most comfortable fighting at flyweight.
Nick: Your nickname is “KGB,” who gave you that name and why?
Andrea: Oh the dreaded KGB question. Someday I’m gonna charge 5 dollars to answer this question. Early on I was only the second female Donny had ever trained and the only one at the gym at the time. That was a recipe for a lot of friendly hazing. The guys called me a Russian, Nikita, Commie etc. because I apparently look Russian or Ukrainian to a lot of people. Donny started calling me KGB and it just stuck. In international Muay Thai competition, we fought two teams from Russia. One asked me in a very thick accent “are you Russian?” Donny replied, “No”! And he almost yelled, “why KGB then!?” In a moment of spontaneous hilarity, Donny said, “because she looks like a Russian chick man!” I didn’t know if they were gonna fight or what, but the Russian coach just looked me up and down and said “she does” and walked off. We died laughing but later the whole Russian team came and took pictures with me after I won the world title. If you get confirmation from a Muay Thai coach from St Petersburg then no one can question you (laughs). No it’s not a political statement. I’m a red blooded Texas cowgirl but the brand just stuck.
Nick: I have interviewed Andy Nguyen in the past. How did you and Andy become such good friends?
Andrea: Andy is my best friend. Donny and Andy and I joke that we are sister wives. A few years ago I beat a talented Ashley Samples. Andy was her next opponent and lost to her. She really wanted to take her career seriously and wanted to fix some holes in her game so she just packed a bag and moved from South Carolina to our spare bedroom in Louisiana. Obviously the move changed her life and the results have been self evident. Her growth has been amazing to watch and all holes are now fixed. We make a great team.
Nick: After Invicta FC 16, the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NAC) handed you a temporary suspension for testing positive for a banned diuretic. As a medical professional myself I do not believe that a water pill should count as a performance enhancing drug. What are your feelings on how strict the rules are and how quick suspensions are handed out for a non performance enhancing drug?
Andrea: Yes I’m still bitter about the suspension. I have an IUD implant which doesn’t allow me to have a full cycle. Sometimes the cut will trigger what would for most women be a normal period. For me, I just swell and bloat. The water pill was just to relieve the swelling on my wrists and ankles. I mistakenly looked at it as a “drug” test which was my mistake. It isn’t a drug test like it once was but now a list of “banned substances” which can be over the counter sleeping pills, diuretics, many herbal remedies and nutritional supplements. I still think USADA is over the top with their ever expanding list but I’m wiser about what I’m putting in my body now.
Nick: You understand that marketing is important in this sport, especially with the release of your new calendar. What tips would you give young up and coming fighters on the balance of presenting yourself based on beauty vs. brawn or skill alone?
Andrea: Some fighters like Andy and I get some flack for taking “racy” pictures and almost 100% of the time the criticism comes from women. I just look at it as a celebration of an athletic female physique. I enjoy feeling like a lady when I’m not punching people in the face. My advice is just be who you are. Skill and accomplishment are foremost in both mine and Andy’s career but we and our sponsors enjoy the extra exposure and income that aggressive marketing can provide.
Nick: What is next for you in the fight world? I know your fans are eager to know.
Andrea: I fight Heather Bassett on AXS TV on Feb 17 for the LFA flyweight world title. Soon after I hope to be back in the Invicta cage.
Nick: If you could have one dream fight with anyone, who would it be? Why?
Andrea: My dream fight is the easiest answer of all. Whoever has the belt or Meryl Streep.
Andrea also made it very clear that she would like to thank all of her fans and supporters. She was genuine in saying that she truly appreciates every last one of them!
Additional Notes From Nick:
Well this was a very fun interview. Andrea is a down to Earth girl, when she isn’t punching you in the face or putting you in a submission lock. It was also clear to me that since MMA is not an art Andrea would be happy to have Meryl Streep head on out to Karate Mafia for a training session. I would like to thank Andrea for taking the time to answer questions for her fans. Good luck getting that belt “KGB!” I know you have many fans in your corner.