ONE Championship

Denice Zamboanga gets point across after controversial loss: Filipinas are here to stay

Denice Zamboanga gets point across after controversial loss: Filipinas are here to stay

SUPPORT. Fans rally behind Denice Zamboanga following her first loss in ONE Championship.

ONE Championship

Gone are the days when women’s matches were mere afterthoughts in ONE Championship as Denice Zamboanga makes waves following her contentious loss in the Women's Atomweight World Grand Prix

On the night ONE Championship delivered one of its finest live shows to date with the historic ONE: Empower, one lady stood out and broke ground in the sport for her country.  

While 16 of the best female athletes in the organization competed at the event, it was Denice “Lycan Queen” Zamboanga who emerged as the talk of the town, even after her contentious split decision loss against highly  touted “Arale Chan” Seo Hee Ham in the quarterfinals of the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix.  

The courageous 24-year-old stood toe-to-toe with the South Korean veteran, using her wrestling to disrupt the dangerous striking of Ham – a weapon often compared to that of legendary Wanderlei Silva.  

Perhaps the biggest moment of the match came in the home stretch of the third round where Zamboanga and Ham accidentally clashed heads, opening a gash on the Filipina’s forehead. But instead of letting that incident affect her, “Lycan Queen” finished strong, scoring a late takedown and a few more punches before the final bell.  

After three rounds of action, the judges came to their decision, two of them awarding the victory to Ham, effectively knocking Zamboanga out of the tournament.

But that decision wouldn’t fly for her passionate Filipino fanbase.  

As soon as the decision was announced, the cavalry arrived. A horde of Filipino supporters took the battle for Zamboanga online, questioning the decision and letting the organization know how they felt about the outcome.  

Filipino athletes have gone through some close losses in the past, both in ONE and outside of it, but the outrage was something not seen before as it hit fever pitch by midnight of Friday, with Zamboanga being one of the top trending topics in the country.  

Before the weekend ended, however, ONE boss Chatri Sityodtong made the announcement that fans were waiting for – the match is now under formal review by the organization’s competition committee.  

It was met positively by fans who were so invested in the match.  

While the decision of the committee is never guaranteed, Zamboanga now has an outside shot of clearing Ham and being two wins away from her much awaited showdown with longtime ONE atomweight world champion “Unstoppable” Angela Lee.  

But whether that happens, the takeaway is pretty clear – the once male-dominated sport of mixed martial arts is now steering away from the norm.  

Gone are the days when women’s matches were mere afterthoughts to the usual names like Brandon “The Truth” Vera, Eduard “Landslide” Folayang, and Joshua “The Passion” Pacio.  

Now the entire talk is about Zamboanga, how she dominated Ham, and how she’ll be able to win the entire Grand Prix and give Lee fits in their highly anticipated world title showdown if that happens.  

Such expectations were not bestowed on Filipinas in the past, and what makes it ironic is that it came to Zamboanga right after a loss.  

She might have bowed out of the tournament, and whether or not she gets back to it is in the hands of the competition committee.

One thing can’t be erased, though, as Zamboanga turned herself into the people’s champion that night with a courageous effort against one of the world’s best.  

Now it’s up to her to keep the flame burning – for her sake and for the sake of women’s mixed martial arts in the country. –

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