MANILA, Philippines -- ONE Atomweight world champion Angela Lee is not ruling out a potential title defense against Denice Zambaonga, even after the Filipina mixed martial arts (MMA) star's loss in the ONE Atomweight Grand Prix.
Zamboanga was in line for a title shot against Lee last year after rising to the top of the division's rankings, but Lee's pregnancy forced a change of plans. Eight of the promotion's top atomweights instead competed in a Grand Prix, with the winner earning a bout against Lee.
Unfortunately for Zamboanga, she exited the Grand Prix in the quarterfinals after losing to South Korean veteran Seo Hee Ham in controversial fashion. Ham seized a split decision victory that was reviewed and ultimately upheld by ONE Championship's competition committee.
"It was a close fight," Lee said of the Zamboanga-Ham showdown. "In my eyes, I did see Denice edging out a victory."
However, the champion also pointed out that this scenario is the reason that fighters should not leave matches in the hands of the judges.
"It's always hard when it goes to the judges' hands," said Lee. "There have been bad calls before. I've been on the bad end of the decision before, and of course, it is frustrating."
"That's why I make it a point to always try for the finish, because if you leave it in the judges' hands, you never know what will happen," she added.
Lee and Zamboanga engaged in a war of words over social media last year, and Lee remains interested in defending her title against the Filipina -- provided that she earns her shot.
This means winning against other contenders again, with Lee citing perennial contender Meng Bo as a potential opponent for Zamboanga.
"I think it could happen," she said of fighting Zamboanga. "If she does end up falling out of the Grand Prix, and if she fights, say Meng Bo, if those two match up and if she wins, then I think yeah, sure."
"(But) I just don't think you can have a shot at the title coming off a loss," Lee stressed. "I think she needs to fight someone before getting that title shot."
As for the Grand Prix, Lee said the other quarterfinal matches were also exciting, although she already has an idea on who will make it to the finals.
"Maybe potentially Stamp (Fairtex) and Ritu (Phogat)," she said.