Zamboanga asks Lee to step aside

ONE Championship’s top female atomweight contender Denice “The Menace” Zamboanga of the Philippines hit back at reigning ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion Angela Lee following her comments that Zamboanga has not done enough to earn a shot at her title, despite the promotion naming her the next challenger to the throne.

Denice Zamboanga (left) absorbs a kick from Watsyapinya Kaewkhong during ONE: A New Breed held August 28, 2020 in Thailand. Zamboanga beat Kaewkhong by submission in the first round. ONE
Zamboanga was not happy with the champion’s comments and issued a challenge of her own.

“I would like to say big congratulations to her. I am very happy for her. Motherhood is a very special experience for every woman. I believe Angela will be a great mother,” Zamboanga told media in the Philippines.

“Angela is the World Champion, she should do the right thing like all great champions do. She should give respect to other fighters who deserve it and most importantly, should vacate the championship belt since she cannot defend it.

“Most great champions would have done this straight away, as soon as they know they won’t be able to defend their belt for personal reasons.

“I have proven myself to the world. I am the number one contender. I earned it through beating world-class opponents. I have already faced Mei Yamaguchi, the fighter who almost beat Angela, in a fight I believe Angela was very fortunate to win. She was in trouble most of the time during that fight. I was never in trouble against Mei. Mei is a great fighter, and I have a lot of respect for her. In my opinion, she is a better fighter than Angela.”

Lee made her sentiments known after ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong announced plans for a ONE Atomweight World Grand Prix Championship, in lieu of her pregnancy which is expected to sideline her for at least a year. 

The 24-year-old champion from Hawaii and Singapore says Zamboanga needs a few more big names on her resume to be truly worthy of a crack at the atomweight belt.

“Honestly, even though Denice beat Mei Yamaguchi, I don’t think that alone qualifies her to be the number one contender. The other girls that she fought were not even ranked. The atomweight division is stacked with at least 10 top talents,” said Lee.

“I think that Denice should have to face the top 10 girls first to truly prove herself as the number one contender, and the ONE Atomweight World Grand Prix Championship is the perfect way to do that.”

After defeating the highly-regarded Jihin Radzuan in her ONE debut, and then following up that victory with a dominant win over Yamaguchi, Zamboanga was expected to face Lee late this year or in early 2021. But after news of Lee’s pregnancy broke out late last week, and with no clear return timetable, that bout is now doubtful. 

Zamboanga should be an entrant in the atomweight Grand Prix, although confirmed details have yet to be announced by ONE Championship. If and when Zamboanga enters the tournament, she will need to face many of the division’s top talents to make it through to the end.

Sityodtong says the overall winner will not be competing for the atomweight belt, but for a chance to face Lee down the line for the title.

Zamboanga obviously feels she is the rightful number one contender, and didn’t mince her words when speaking of what she thought about the whole ordeal.

“She made her choice to become a mother, which is great and I am very happy for her. However, she has to do the respectable thing and vacate the championship belt. She shouldn’t wait for the organization to ask her. I am surprised that she hasn’t made that decision to vacate the belt,” said Zamboanga.

“In a world-class organization, when the champion is unable to defend their title for any personal reason, that title will become vacant and the top fighters will get the chance to compete for that title. Otherwise, it will affect the rest of the division. Fighters in that division will become discouraged if this doesn’t happen, because they won’t be able to compete for the title.

“I hope she does the right thing and makes the announcement herself. Be the respectable champion as I’ve always known her to be. When she’s ready to come back, I will be waiting for her.”

Topics: ONE Championship , Denice “The Menace” Zamboanga , Jihin Radzuan , Angela Lee , ONE Atomweight World Grand Prix Championship
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