FILIPINO atomweight star Denice “Lycan Queen” Zamboanga is primed and ready for what should be the biggest test of her young career thus far.
The 24-year-old is one of eight women who will participate in the highly anticipated ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix. The first round of the tournament commences at ONE: EMPOWER, which broadcasts live on Friday, 28 May from the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore.
Zamboanga, who is the division’s #1-ranked contender, is scheduled to face veteran “Arale Chan” Seo Hee Ham. With the stakes riding high, Zamboanga is determined to defeat Ham and win the tournament.
According to ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong, the winner of the tournament will earn the right to challenge reigning ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion “Unstoppable” Angela Lee for the world title later this year.
“I’ve been preparing hard for this fight. A lot of pain, sweat, tears, and blood went into this training camp. I’m in the best shape of my career. Physically, mentally, and spiritually, I’m ready for this fight. I’m ready to give it 100%, and do anything it takes to win,” Zamboanga said.
Zamboanga burst onto the scene in December 2019, defeating Malaysian star Jihin “Shadow Cat” Radzuan. She went on to beat two-time former ONE World Title challenger Mei “V.V” Yamaguchi in 2020, in a massive upset which later earned her the top spot in the divisional rankings. She followed up that victory just a few months later, submitting Watsyapinya Kaewkhong impressively in the first round.
When the tournament was announced, however, and Zamboanga’s first opponent was revealed, many hardcore mixed martial arts fans believed the Filipina drew the Grand Prix’s most dangerous entrant in Seo.
Despite coming into this bout as the perceived underdog, Zamboanga remains confident in her preparations, and vows to take the fight right to her Korean counterpart.
“I’ve improved so much over the last few months. I’m far from the last Denice Zamboanga you saw in the Circle. I’m a much better fighter now,” Zamboanga said.
“I know that she is the toughest opponent of my career so far. Because of that, I’m not going easy on her. I will make sure I am the toughest opponent she will have ever faced in her career, too.”
As soon as the fight was made official, Zamboanga embarked on an epic 12-week training camp that she says has really transformed her as a fighter.
The 24-year-old Filipina mixed martial artist credits her team at Marrok Force, where she trains with older brother, fellow ONE Championship fighter Drex Zamboanga. She urges fans to watch her fight to witness her improvements.
“My team at Marrok Force has been a huge instrument to my development as a martial artist. They have helped me improve in every area imaginable. I can say with confidence that they’ve created a complete martial artist in me. More than anything, they continue to motivate me everyday to be the best Denice Zamboanga that I can be,” Zamboanga said.
“I’ve diversified my game and transformed my style and techniques. I haven’t even stepped into the Circle with her, but I can tell you that Seo Hee Ham has already brought out the best in me.”
Other first round matches in the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix include a battle between #2-ranked contender Meng Bo and Brazilian newcomer Julie “Juju” Mezabarba, a showdown between #4-ranked Stamp Fairtex and #3-ranked Alyona Rassohyna, and Itsuki “Android 18” Hirata versus Alyse “Lil’ Savage” Anderson.
In the main event of ONE: EMPOWER, reigning ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan defends her world title against #2-ranked strawweight contender Michelle Nicolini. In the co-main event, six-time Kickboxing and Muay Thai World Champion Anissa “C18” Meksen makes her ONE Super Series debut against Martine “The Italian Queen” Michielette.