Since her debut in 2019, Denice “Lycan Queen” Zamboanga has come a long way from being just the new girl on the block in ONE Championship.
Now she’s considered one of the best in her weight class, there are already certain expectations from the No. 1-ranked atomweight.
That said, many fans have Zamboanga as the favorite to win the groundbreaking ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix and get a shot at reigning World Champion “Unstoppable” Angela Lee.
“I am definitely happy that I am getting the respect from fans and peers alike, that they are looking at me as one of the people who could win the tournament,” Zamboanga said.
“Still, there’s a bit of pressure from that. But I want to prove to the people, the ones who believe in me, that they did not make a mistake in believing in me. I want to prove to them that I am indeed the best.”
It’s going to be a tough first-round clash for Zamboanga, who will have to overcome another favorite in Ham, who many believe is the best atomweight outside of the promotion.
Some might feel that the Filipina could be getting the short end of the stick by facing the South Korean this early, especially since she was already named the No. 1 contender.
However, Zamboanga is using this as an opportunity to further build her name as she knows that a win over the Busan Team MAD standout would put her among the world’s elite.
“When I heard that I was facing Seo Hee Ham, I was surprised. I was expecting someone who has competed in ONE before — I wasn’t expecting a newcomer to come in and compete in the Grand Prix,” Zamboanga said.
“I was a bit nervous, I will admit that. But I’m more excited than nervous. I look at it as ONE believing in my ability. The fact that they are giving me Seo, who’s considered one of the best in the world, makes me think that I am already at that level.
“This will certainly be one of the biggest challenges of my career. ONE has put their trust in me to be at my best, and I am up for the challenge.”
There will be a lot of challenges that Ham poses, particularly in the striking department, but the Filipina is working double time to make sure she’s on par with the 34-year-old’s work rate on the feet.
“I want to stand toe-to-toe with her in the striking department,” Zamboanga said.
“I want to prove that I am more than a wrestler and a grappler. With her being one of the best strikers in the division, I can prove that I am one of the best as well if I can hang with her on the feet.”
Catch ONE: EMPOWER live on One Sports or One Sports+ beginning with the lead card at 7:30 p.m. Philippine Standard Time (PHT) on Friday, 3 September.
It will also air simultaneously at the ONE Super App.