MANILA, Philippines -- ONE Championship flyweight contender Drex Zamboanga is backing his sister, Denice, in her ongoing war of words with Singaporean star and ONE women's atomweight champion Angela Lee.
Lee recently announced her pregnancy with husband Bruno Pucci, and she is expected to be out until late 2021, at least. This put the future of the division into question, particularly with Denice already penciled in to be Lee's next challenger before the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to ONE events.
To put some clarity into the division, ONE Championship chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong announced plans for a ONE Atomweight World Grand Prix, pitting the top talents in the division against one another. The winner of the tournament will take home a Grand Prix belt and become the No. 1 contender to face Lee when she returns.
The situation did not sit well with the Zamboangas at first, with Drex stressing that there should be no need to determine the No. 1 contender.
"Denice is already the number one contender for the title. She earned that spot on the rankings by already beating the top talents like Jihin Radzuan and Mei Yamaguchi. She beat them convincingly too. I think she has done enough to fight for the world title," said Drex.
"That being said, the Atomweight Grand Prix is a great concept," he acknowledged. "It's an opportunity for Denice to win a prestigious world title."
But the war of words between Lee and Denice still continued, with Lee expressing her belief that Denice has not done enough to earn the No. 1 contendership. The Singaporean said Denice should defeat more ranked opponents to be worthy of a shot at the title.
In response, Denice said that Lee should vacate the ONE atomweight title, as she would be unable to defend it due to personal reasons.
It's a sentiment that Drex fully supports.
"To be honest, I think the atomweight belt should have been vacated, and let the top two ranked fighters contend for it," he said. "The atomweight world title belongs to the division, and if the champion wants to keep it, they need to fight to defend it."
He pointed out that it has been a year since Lee last fought. "No champion of any combat sport can keep their title for more than a year without defending it," he said.
"Now, she gets to keep it for another year because of her personal reasons. I don't think it's fair for other fighters under this division, and most importantly I don't think it's fair for ONE. Denice challenged Angela to vacate the title out of respect for other competitors in the division," he added.
At the moment, ONE Championship is firm on proceeding with the Atomweight Grand Prix, though the details -- including the full roster of participants and dates of competition -- have yet to be announced. Denice is expected to take part, as she is currently No. 1 in the atomweight rankings, just behind Lee.
If Denice emerges as the winner of the Grand Prix, Drex believes she will be even better prepared for when she and Lee finally meet.
"Denice has been training hard every day for her championship fight. We knew from day one that she had the skills to beat Angela. I am excited for that fight, when it happens," he said.