MANILA, Philippines -- It wasn't quite the title shot she was aiming for, but Denice Zamboanga can still win a championship when she competes in the ONE Atomweight World Grand Prix next year.
Zamboanga has made it clear that her primary target remains the ONE atomweight championship that is currently held by Singapore's Angela Lee. Though pregnant, Lee has not relinquished the title, and the top contenders in the division will instead compete in a Grand Prix.
The winner will not only be the Grand Prix champion, she will also earn a shot at Lee when she returns to competition.
"A lot of people want to see me and Angela fight, so I will get the Grand Prix belt and then I'm on to the atomweight world title at the end of 2021," Zamboanga said recently.
For ONE Championship chairman Chatri Sityodtong, it was an easy call to tab Zamboanga as among the favorites for the tournament. The Filipina dubbed as "The Menace" has an 8-0 record, including an impressive unanimous decision win over former top contender Mei Yamaguchi in February.
In her return fight last August, Zamboanga made quick work of Watsapinya Kaewkhong, submitting her in the first round.
"I think Denice is definitely one of the favorites," Sityodtong said in a conference call. "I love her aggressive style. She has a lot of power, explosiveness, and she really wants to finish fights. You can see that in her."
"So for me, Denice will be one of the favorites to win the world grand prix," he added.
ONE Championship Chairman Chatri Sityodtong explains why Angela Lee was not stripped of the atomweight belt, and touts Denice Zamboanga as a future champion.
Sityodtong said he understands Zamboanga's frustration at missing out on a world title shot, but he pointed out that she has the opportunity to win not just one, but two belts.
"Personally, I think the World Grand Prix belt is a nicer belt, a nicer looking belt," said Sityodtong. "And why wouldn't she want both belts?"
"I think that Denice is a young rising star. I think she has a lot of potential, she could be a world champion in the future," he also said. "If she wins the World Grand Prix then she's going to be ranked as one of the best pound-for-pound female athletes in the world."
"She's definitely going to be ranked as one of the best in the atomweights in the world, full stop."
Sityodtong has yet to announce the other competitors in the Grand Prix, although he guaranteed that there will be some surprising names in the line-up.
If Zamboanga fulfills her vow and wins the Grand Prix, then Sityodtong said they will have a must-watch affair in the future when she and Lee finally face off.
"I think people are pretty interested in Angela vs. Denice, because of the bad blood," he said.