Samantha Seff details what it was like inside Andrea Lee’s UFC fight camp.
What does it take to win a UFC Performance of the Night?
Just ask UFC flyweight, Andrea “KGB” Lee, who just earned that accolade after dominating No. 5 ranked Cyntia Calvillo to earn a second-round TKO victory after Calvillo couldn’t answer the bell at the start of round three.
I was fortunate enough to train with Lee multiple times throughout her fight camp in preparation for this bout, including her final week before heading to Las Vegas. Let me just say that while I know a select amount of people who work harder than almost anyone else in the game, none do it with as much selfless resiliency as Andrea Lee.
In the summer, I was lucky to be able to attend a women’s MMA camp full of several professional fighters from Invicta and the UFC, and Andrea was one of them.
At the time, her bout was just announced against her original opponent, Jessica Eye. Eventually, Eye would have to pull out due to medical concern and Calvillo stepped in as the replacement.
If there was any trepidation in regards to a new and much higher-ranked opponent, it was pushed to the wayside in favor of excitement.
Andrea was enticed at the opportunity to climb the rankings in the flyweight division facing such a prominent opponent. Calvillo is no novice to the fight game. She has multiple accolades in the strawweight division and recently began fighting 10 pounds heavier at the flyweight level. Lee is a seasoned veteran of the 125-pound division and was ready to display her tenacity and prowess at the biggest stage imaginable with her most prolific fight to date.
Calvillo was recently rebounding off a loss to former strawweight titleholder Jessica Andrade while Lee was coming off an armbar submission win of Antonina Shevchenko that stunned many viewers.
A week before Lee was due to head out to Las Vegas, I headed to her home in Louisiana with a few other ladies to help the preparations in any way I could for this bout. We trained with her twice a day, morning and evening, while she also made time for cardio in between. Not only did Andrea and her boyfriend, (UFC bantamweight Tony Kelley) host us at their house, they also allowed us access to their home gym and meals and even their awesome Jeep.
People can make assumptions about fighters all they want, but they truly are some of the best people you will meet.
One of the things that struck me most about Andrea, is what a fantastic mom she is. She simply lights up whenever she talks about her daughter, even planning things to do with her soon after the fight. There is nothing greater than seeing a person radiate when talking about something (or someone) that they love, and you can truly see the admiration and affection she has for her daughter.
These are the things in life that make these grueling training sessions and tough weight cuts worthwhile. I know that I personally can function much better throughout a fight camp when I am supported by those I love most.
While assisting Lee in all of her fight training sessions, I was also lucky enough to squeeze in some quality level Jiu-Jitsu at her gym in the area, SMAA Soul Fighters Louisiana, with head professor and her Jiu-Jitsu coach Wayne Knudsen. I was simultaneously preparing for Master’s Worlds in Las Vegas, so I was extremely grateful for the welcoming I received there when it came to grappling. It’s no wonder brown belt Lee pulled off such an incredible submission in her last bout in the UFC.
Not only were we given the opportunity to work with her grappling coach, but we also were fortunate enough to work with her striking coaches as well, something I won’t ever forget. These were some of the most knowledgeable people I have ever come across in the sport, and I am grateful for all of the wisdom they imparted. They were an excellent mixture of tough love, encouraging coaching, and relentless spirit. Day in and day out they showed up because they 100 percent believed in their athlete and their efforts paid off tenfold.
With plenty of rest and recovery, meticulously planned meals thanks to the providers in the UFC as well as the support of Tony, each day was a well-prepared plan. Sure, it can be grating on the mind, body, and spirit, to walk into the gym overcome with fatigue, exhaustion and mental anguish, but the hard work needs to be done in order to reap the rewards.
I don’t think a day ever went by where Andrea didn’t make sure her guests felt at home and comfortable. In fact, on one of our last days in Louisiana, she introduced me to a place where I experienced the best gumbo and jambalaya of my life. That southern charm and hospitality embody her whole spirit.
If you want to be the best, preparation is the most important thing you can do. That whole week Andrea relentlessly drilled her jab and body shots, which proved to be the deciding factor in her TKO victory. Trust me when I say many of us were victims of these agonizing blows, and I sympathized with Calvillo wholeheartedly.
I have never been so thoroughly beaten up by such a sweet person, and her coaches without a doubt definitely knew what they were doing when constructing this game plan as she utilized her jab and completely devastating body shots to completely incapacitate her adversary.
Lee didn’t just win her fight; she truly dominated.
Failure to prepare means you are prepared to fail, and I can say without a doubt that Andrea did absolutely everything she could to ensure she was well-equipped to walk away victorious.
In her true empathetic spirit, she was humble in victory and showed concern for the well-being of her opponent when the bout was called. Lee is a force to be reckoned with and if you aren’t familiar with the name just yet, you will be soon.
So what does it take to win with a dominant display and an added bonus of Performance of the Night accolades? For Andrea Lee, it is sheer willpower, a disciplined attitude, true focus, indomitable spirit, and the kindness and compassion and enthusiasm that only the most elite athletes in the world will ever have the capability to hone in on.
Unless you have been there before, it is so difficult to encapsulate how hard it is to prepare yourself for a fight, mentally and physically, and anyone who does so deserves all the respect in the world. Especially Andrea “KGB” Lee, who relentlessly drilled her game plan no matter how worn out she was and went into battle-ready to do work.
I look forward to watching her continued success in climbing the rankings and coming away with more wins.