Andrea Lee - The cowboy hat-wearing fighter called ‘KGB’ making history at UFC 242
Flyweight Lee, who has a record of 11-2 in professional MMA, rides a seven-fight winning streak into her matchup with rough tough Scottish opponent Joanne Calderwood at UFC 242 on the preliminary card of unbeaten lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s title defence against Dustin Poirier at YAS Arena.
That fight will be one of two bouts featuring female fighters in UAE - a first for the UFC in the country. The honor of being the first female martial artists to fight in Abu Dhabi under the UFC will officially go to Georgian 'She Wolf' Liana Jojua and Sarah Moras, who also feature in the preliminary bouts.
In a sport rich with gimmicks and shticks, Lee’s is perhaps the most curious, as it combines two symbols of ardent patriotism of two seemingly polar opposite countries: the USA and Russia. The 30-year-old goes by the fight name ‘KGB’, the Soviet intelligence and secret police, yet wears a cowboy hat pre and post fight.
But how did a fighter who looks like she came straight from a Texas ranch end up with a fight name with such mystique? The answer is a lot less intriguing. Lee gained the moniker when she first walked into a Louisiana gym.
The trainer, incidentally her future husband Donny Aaron, laid eyes on the beauitful blonde with the beaming smile and decided she looked like a generic femme fatale ‘Russian spy’ from the movies, and began calling her ‘KGB’ - and the name stuck.
From there, Lee’s persona as a seductive Russian secret service member grew to the extent she would fight in a red and yellow uniform emblazoned with the letters ‘KGB’ and a hammer and sickle - the communist colors and symbol of the Soviet Union.
Despite her nickname, rather than wear a traditional Russian ‘ushanka’ hat, (excpet in promotional photoshoots) or even Khabib’s signature ‘papakha’ from the mountainous North Caucasus region, Lee prefers to perform a swift defection after each fight and slip on a cowboy hat in a nod to her Southern roots.
It's a tradition that dates back as far as 2013, when she won the IKF World Classic Amateur Muay Thai Champion, the first of her three Muay Thai world championships.
Ahead of her fight with Calderwood, the 32-year-old tough-as-nails Scot who entered MMA after also becoming ISKA world flyweight kickboxing champion and has gone 13-4 since making the switch, Lee said she is excited to make history and that she’s expecting “fireworks” from the fight.
“For sure, we’re making history and I’m honored I was one of the females that was chosen to come out here to make history and fight here in Abu Dhabi,” Lee told MMA Fighting at the recent media day.
“It is definitely groundbreaking. It just shows that women’s MMA is exploding and we’re finally getting the respect we deserve and I’m happy to be a part of it...Being able to fight on a Khabib and Dustin Poirier card its unbelievable you know. I’m very excited about that alone."
Lee also said there is a “strong possibility” that an impressive win against Calderwood could hand her a title shot against flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko, as Calderwood is coming off the back of a contentious and lacklustre decision defeat to number two contender Katlyn Chookagian, which may make the UFC hesitant to put her in with Shevchenko. Lee says despite the specualtion, she was not looking past Calderwood.
“I think stylistically we matchup perfectly and I don’t think she has the upper hand necessarily. I think that we’re both gonna collide and its gonna be fireworks,” she said.
The tattooed Calderwood, who carries herself in a slightly more soft-spoken manner than her steely exterior would allow one to believe, said she is “so confident” going into the fight, despite her loss to Chookagian.