Marrok Force coach William Aranguiz insisted that Filipina fighter Denice Zamboanga isn't an underdog compared to veteran South Korean mixed martial artist Seo Hee Ham.
Aranguiz, who is also the director for MMA at the Bangkok-based stable, is confident that his ward will fare well against Seo, a former atomweight champion in the Rizin Fighting Federation.
And the Chilean MMA fighter-turned-coach would like to make a statement by contrasting commentaries from fans and analysts.
READ: Drex confident of sister Denice’s chances against South Korean veteran
"I know a lot of fans are saying Seo Hee Ham is the favorite to win this, but we feel differently," said Aranguiz. "I just don’t see Denice as being the underdog. I know Denice doesn’t feel that way either. Denice is one of the best fighters in the world in the atomweight division, bar none. And now is her time to shine. She is the number one contender for a reason."
Zamboanga has prepared well for the "toughest test" of her young career yet, which is the women's world atomweight grand prix set in ONE: Empower, an all-female card event, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on May 28.
READ: Denice Zamboanga: I'm in the best shape of my career
The unbeaten Filipina, who owns an 8-0 record, looks to take down the top athletes in the division en route to a crack at the world title against current champion Angela Lee.
Though Seo banks on the veteran experience, with a 23-8 slate, Aranguiz and the Marrok Force coaching staff are firm that Zamboanga can climb up the tournament ladder.
"It was a long and hard 12 weeks of training since we got that call to face the Korean, and Denice has made huge strides as a martial artist. I’m personally excited to witness it all come together on fight night," said Aranguiz.
"Denice is just a different fighter right now. We’ve really transformed her into an absolute beast. She is much more controlled now, and we’ve tightened up her game a lot. Her boxing and wrestling have improved tremendously."
READ: Seo Hee Ham on Zamboanga: This won’t be an easy fight
Zamboanga earlier said she doesn't mind being labeled as the underdog and vowed to prove doubters wrong instead come the tournament.
Prior to ONE: Empower, the No. 1 women's atomweight contender rose to the occasion by beating the likes of Watsapinya Kaewkhong of Thailand, Mei Yamaguchi of Japan, and Jihin Radzuan of Malaysia.