Some people feel that #1-ranked contender Denice “Lycan Queen” Zamboanga could have complained when the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix was announced to determine the next challenger to longtime divisional queen “Unstoppable” Angela Lee.
After all, instead of battling Lee for the gold outright, the Filipina must prove herself against three opponents in the tournament, starting with the dangerous “Arale Chan” Seo Hee Ham at ONE: EMPOWER on Friday, 3 September.
But in true warrior spirit, “Lycan Queen” is welcoming this difficult task, and she’s thankful for the chance to compete against one of the best atomweights on earth who’s yet to fight in The Home Of Martial Arts.
“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 says.
“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.”
“Lycan Queen” will need to be at her best against the South Korean slugger, who has 31 matches under her belt and whose recent form — six straight wins, four by TKO — earned her a spot in the Grand Prix.
“This will certainly be one of the biggest challenges of my career,” the Filipina continues. “ONE has put their trust in me to be at my best, and I am up for the challenge.”
In terms of the tactical matchup, Zamboanga will be on the lookout for “Arale Chan’s” aggressive style on the feet, which often earns her comparisons to mixed martial arts great Wanderlei Silva.
“Seo is a very deadly striker. She’s a southpaw, which could give me problems because I haven’t faced many southpaw strikers before. So that’s one of her advantages,” Zamboanga says.
“I do have some sparring partners who can change to southpaw, but most of them are orthodox by nature.”
The 24-year-old grappling specialist does not intend to back down from standing and trading with her opponent, and she is looking forward to showing the world that she has a full arsenal of skills.
“I want to stand toe-to-toe with her in the striking department,” Zamboanga says. “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.”
With that in mind, “Lycan Queen” has been training in all aspects of mixed martial arts along with her coaches and teammates at Marrok Force in Bangkok, Thailand.
“The main advantage that I have is the closeness of our team,” she says. “I have one solid think tank behind me, who are working hand in hand to make sure I come in very prepared against Seo. Having a team like this is really a big help for me in getting the outcome that I truly want.”
Moreover, the #1 contender is boosted by the faith of her supporters, and despite the tricky first-round matchup, she is ready to enter the Grand Prix as a favorite to win.
“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 adds.
“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.”