ONE Championship: Denice Zamboanga's sacrifices have led her to the brink of glory

Santino Honasan on May 21, 2020 01:05 PM
Zamboanga's sacrifices have led her to the brink of glory
"You cannot just be a good fighter without experiencing hardship, it is also like that in life. Before you succeed, you have to do your part,” - Denice Zamboanga (Photo courtesy of ONE Championship)

Filipina ONE Championship women’s atomweight contender Denice “The Menace Fairtex” Zamboanga is on her way to becoming one of the country’s biggest mixed martial arts stars, thanks largely to her impressive performances on the world’s biggest martial arts stage. 

After a few stints on the regional circuits in the Philippines, the Quezon City-native made her debut on the world stage, defeating Malaysian star Jihin Radzuan before cementing her status as the division’s top contender by edging out Japanese women’s MMA star and former two-time title challenger Mei Yamaguchi. 

The win over Yamaguchi earned the young Zamboanga a shot at the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Championship, currently held by Singapore’s Angela Lee, one of the promotion’s biggest stars and most dominant champions. 

While Zamboanga may be on the cusp of stardom, her path there wasn’t easy. She did have to make a number of sacrifices and life-changing decisions to get her to where she is now. 

Before carving out a path in mixed martial arts, Zamboanga - a graduate of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines - found a job in I.T., before eventually transitioning into government work. 

It didn’t take long however, for her to realize that the 9-to-5 life wasn’t her true calling. She would find that when she joined brother and URCC champion Drex to an MMA training session. 

Zamboanga was instantly hooked and that would be the start of her path into MMA. 

For her to be able to fully commit herself to the sport however, Zamboanga knew that she had to leave her old life behind. 

“It was a very hard time for me, that moment I had to decide between mixed martial arts and my ‘work’ work,” Zamboanga shared in an interview with ONE Championship. “It was really tough and it was the biggest decision I made in my life.” 

Fortunately for Zamboanga, she had her parents’ blessing, something that isn’t immediately there for most people who decide to pursue a career in combat sports. 

“I had a good job back then, but thank God my parents supported me when I chose martial arts over my work,” Zamboanga said. 

“My friends and family are very supportive when it comes to my career. So when they knew that I chose martial arts as my career, they respected my decision and they really supported me,” she added. 

Three years later, Zamboanga is quite possibly one win away from becoming ONE Championship’s first Filipina female world champion. 

“I’m super grateful and overwhelmed. I can’t express how happy I am,” she said of the earned title shot. Zamboanga adds that her win over Yamaguchi was the result of all the hard work and sacrifice that she has put into her MMA career, which includes moving to Thailand to train. “I always trained hard. I went to Thailand to train, far away from my family. After all of the big challenges and hardships, I got the win.”

And while Zamboanga is on the brink of glory, the magnitude of the situation isn’t lost on her. 

Lee is undefeated as an atomweight and has impressively dispatched all of the challengers that have been put in front of her. 

“This is the biggest challenge I will face and I will train so hard for this. She is one of the people I’ve always watched in MMA, and now I have to compete against her for the world title. It will definitely be a hard one. Everything I will show inside the Circle will be a surprise. I want to surprise everyone on fight night,” Zamboanga stated.

If Zamboanga can do what no other atomweight has been able to do so far, she joins FIlipino stars like Brandon Vera, Eduard Folayang, Joshua Pacio, Kevin Belingon, Geje Eustaquio, and Honorio Banario who have successfully hoisted ONE Championship gold. 

A win for her, Zamboanga says, is a win for the Philippines

“Beating a star like Angela Lee and winning a world title means so much to me. It’s like a dream come true - a win over my idol and a win for the Philippines.” 

“I represent my country not just locally but internationally. I’m so proud to be a Filipino. Even if I fight internationally, I can feel the support of the Filipino fans, even through their messages and cheers for me,” she added. 

In just two fights under the ONE Championship banner, Zamboanga has already left her mark. What she has been able to accomplish in just a short time in the promotion is a testament to the hard work and the sacrifices that she has put in, and she will be the first to tell you that the road wasn’t easy. 

“I do like the idea of being a strong woman,” Zamboanga said. “I feel like I’m physically and mentally strong.”

“It’s challenging. You have to be disciplined, and you will learn a lot in this sport. It’s helped me to be disciplined and patient. You cannot just be a good fighter without experiencing hardship, it is also like that in life. Before you succeed, you have to do your part,” she concluded.

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