“Arale Chan” Seo Hee Ham has thrilled audiences with her exciting fighting style for 14 years, but now, she is gearing up for the biggest challenge of her career — the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix.
The South Korean star will square off against Denice “Lycan Queen” Zamboanga at the historic ONE: EMPOWER on Friday, 3 September, and a victory over the #1-ranked contender would make her one of the tournament favorites.
That means Ham will be under the spotlight straight away, which is not exactly what the humble veteran was expecting when she joined the promotion. Still, she is planning to meet the moment head-on.
“Thinking about my debut in ONE Championship, I felt like I had butterflies in my stomach. I’m excited since it has been a long time since my last tournament,” she says.
“When I was contracted with ONE Championship, I thought I would be like a newbie, taking it step-by-step from the starting point. But right from the start, I entered the Grand Prix.
“In a way, I couldn’t help but think, ‘Is this okay?’ But I am very grateful to them for giving me such a big opportunity.”
Ham’s humility makes it easy to forget that she’s the most experienced mixed martial artist in the tournament and has a huge list of accolades to her credit.
The Busan native won multiple titles in her home nation and across the sea in Japan, which helped establish her as the best atomweight in the world outside of ONE Championship. That being said, her move to The Home Of Martial Arts was still a massive milestone in her career.
“Moving to ONE Championship was important to me because I am coming to the end of my athletic career, and I want to end it off with a great finale. So, that’s how I made up my mind,” she says.
“Compared to the other belts, I want [the ONE World Title] more earnestly. I feel that it’s more important because I want to end my last match with the ONE Championship belt.”
But to earn that ONE Women’s Atomweight World Title shot, the South Korean must first navigate the shark-infested waters of the Grand Prix, with the unbeaten Zamboanga as her first test.
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Ham knows the quarterfinal matchup with Zamboanga could easily decide who will win the Grand Prix, but she is pleased to face a difficult assignment right away.
“I didn’t want to be up against a weak opponent. So, when I heard the opponent was Denice, I was glad that I was up against a strong opponent that I could have an awesome match with,” she says.
Meanwhile, “Arale Chan” has studied her rival and has identified a lot of strengths that she’s been preparing for at Team MAD.
“She seems to like cage wrestling, so I trained largely on defending against that, as well as boxing,” Ham says of Zamboanga. “I think she’s very strong, for sure. She likes to give her opponent a hard time while wrestling and likes to go to the ground to press them down.
“Also, seeing how Denice hits her opponents, she doesn’t use a KO punch but makes sure she’s not in the line of the opponent’s range to be hit. I studied a lot of things like this. Overall, I think I need to be careful.”
With 31 professional fights and a current six-bout winning streak, the South Korean slugger remains confident in her ability to deal with Zamboanga’s offense.
“In preparation for this match, I have anticipated her takedown tactics and prepared a lot for them, so I don’t think I will be an easy target to take down,” Ham says.
“I have never been taken down and received a pounding to end the match before, so I doubt that it will happen this time.
“Regardless of who my opponent is in any match, I never give up. My style of doing whatever I need to do, I think, is considered my strength.”
Ultimately, “Arale Chan” plans to take her time, use the composure she’s gained from years of experience, and find the right moment to explode on the rising star and score an emphatic KO — one that would put her on the map in the world’s largest martial arts organization.
“After the bell goes off for the first round, I will take my stance a distance from her, then assess my opponent and study her movement,” Ham adds.
“Then I will move in for a one-shot knockout. This is what I’ve thought about constantly and imagined as I prepared for the tournament.”