Andrea Lee has had a difficult few months personally. For her, though, it also extended into her professional life.
In August, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Lee’s husband — and coach — Donny Aaron on a charge of domestic violence. Aaron is being accused of choking Lee, threatening to put a cigarette out on her arm and menacing her. The Shreveport (La.) Police Department are charging Aaron with domestic battery and false imprisonment, though he has yet to be captured by law enforcement.
Just a few weeks later, Lee agreed to fight Jessica-Rose Clark at UFC on FOX 31 in Milwaukee, which was scheduled for early December. Lee had to leave her home for a time, then was granted a temporary restraining order against Aaron.
Without a home gym, she called upon an old friend — UFC veteran and The Ultimate Fighter alum Tim Credeur, who has taken her into his Gladiators Academy in Lafayette, La. Credeur has been friends with Lee for many years and has trained her and alongside her at his gym and her old one in Shreveport.
“Our relationship is not new in any way,” Credeur told MMA Fighting. “It’s a substantial and lengthy relationship that we’ve had. I think what’s important in a coach and fighter relationship is trust and understanding each other’s methodology and communication patterns and mindset is very important. Andrea and I are very similar, in terms of the way we choose to fight. She’s much more talented than I am. But she wants to beat your ass. There ain’t no doubt about it.”
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It’s fight week! The hay is in the barn, time to focus on the weight cut. Y’all can watch me fight live on ESPN I should be early, around 5pm Phoenix time.... so don’t miss it! #ufc #espn #ufconespn #lagladiators @timcredeur @gladiatorsla #repcombatcorner #combatcrnr Equipment and boxing gloves Courtesy of @combatcrnr
Since Lee arrived in Lafayette, Credeur has been hard at work. Not just working with Lee, but learning the makeup the entire UFC women’s flyweight division. Credeur said he has watched every 125-pound women’s fight in the promotion since Lee arrived. Lee will fight Ashlee Evans-Smith on Sunday at UFC Phoenix, which will feature the first-ever UFC main card on ESPN.
For her part, Lee has been “incredible,” Credeur said. He said he has seen “tremendous strides” in her game and most of all she has gotten through camp without any unnecessary outside forces rearing their head.
“Emotionally, she’s in a much better place,” Credeur said. “She’s training with a whole bunch of people that care about her and she’s enjoying her training again. A lot of the drama that she’s dealt with in the past is not really a part of her training camp now.”
The situation has been delicate, Credeur acknowledges. He’s not only longtime friends with Lee, he’s also longtime friends with Aaron. The way he sees it, though, is that his personal relationships are separate from what he’s trying to do — make Lee the best possible version of herself she can be in the Octagon.
Credeur said he has talked everything out with Lee about Aaron and the situation. But the best thing they could do for the time being is “put it on the shelf” and focus on Lee’s training and her MMA career.
“For me as a coach, obviously it’s a touchy subject,” Credeur said. “Obviously, there’s some ground there, how do you approach this? How do you do this? How do you deal with this? How do you not step over the line?
“The way I do it is, I don’t give a shit. That’s the way I deal with it. I am much more to all of my athletes than just a coach. I am a friend, I am a mentor, I am someone that loves them and cares about them. And my doors would have never been open to Andrea if that weren’t the case for many years. And that’s always been our relationship. We all go through struggles, we all go through hardship in life and we all go through difficulties. And I’m here as a coach, but I’m also here as a mentor and I’m here as a brother in arms. We believe in her. All of us believe in her.”
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Big thanks to Austin’s Richards for making this video @amr_visuals Thank you @timcredeur @christianfulgium @mother.of.ninjas @renee.delhomme and all the guys at @gladiatorsla for all the work and preparation for this upcoming fight. Thank you @jim_west_gold @aspenladd @coach1doug @mikeguyboxing @muaythaigold_jake out at MMA GOLD for y’alls help! And thank you @earnestlytootieschef And @ultimatefitnessfood for prepping all my meals during this camp and making this weight cut so much easier! Next week it’s time to put on a show! #ufc #wmma #mma #andreakgblee #fightcamp #training #video #filmography #muaythai #boxing #wrestling #jiujitsu @victorybeefllc @iowabison
What he has seen from Lee in the training room has floored him, Credeur said. In his viewing of all the women’s flyweight fights in the UFC recently, he believes Lee, a former Muay Thai champion, can beat just about all of her peers. Creduer compared Lee to his former star pupil, UFC lightweight contender Dustin Poirier.
“For whatever reason, killers are just drawn to me,” Credeur said. “Dustin Poirier, they’re the same person really, if I’m being honest with you. Dustin is a ‘f*ck you’ fighter. You guys can say whatever you want, but you watch the fights. You can say his boxing is real good or his kickboxing is real good or his wrestling is improved — whatever. When the fight starts, Dustin Poirier wants to beat your ass. That’s what he wants to do. It ain’t about parrying your jab, he’s trying to bust a hole in you. That is terrifying to people. And if you look at Andrea Lee, she’s the exact same way. When the fight starts, she is a killer. She is intent on your destruction.”
Credeur said the main part of this camp was to clean up Lee’s angles, get her head off the center line, improve her jab, up her striking volume and polish her grappling and wrestling. Other than though, Credeur said, Lee is basically a natural.
“Andrea does things that aren’t teachable,” he said. “I’m watching her and she does things and I don’t even know what the f*ck to say. It’s not even a technique. You’ve got less than 1 percent of fighters in the world that can do some things that she does, with her hips and with her movement and with her understanding of her space in a three-dimensional space. Her kinesthetic awareness is remarkable. And I’ve only seen that a few times as coach. Man or woman.”
When asked how the outside influences, which can certainly be traumatic, have affected her, Credeur almost chuckled. As serious as something like this might, be he was adamant that there’s no way it could break her.
“There are some parts of her life where she’s going through some shit,” Credeur said. “But Andrea is a tough girl. She’s been through tough shit all her whole life. Bumps in the road aren’t gonna sway her from her goals. Little hiccups for most people can shut them down. But Andrea is not most people. She’s a champion through and through. She’s been through a lot of tough shit in her life, this is just another opportunity for her to show the world that, these little bumps in the road aren’t gonna keep her down.”