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Mixed Martial Arts

Denice Zamboanga driven to become first Filipina MMA world champ

Denice Zamboanga stands at the cusp of etching her name in the annals of Philippine sports lore.

The 27-year-old Quezon City resident will challenge Stamp Fairtex for the latter’s ONE Women’s Atomweight MMA World Championship in the main event of ONE 167, taking place at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand on June 8.

If she manages to pull off the upset against the Thai megastar, Zamboanga will go down in history as the first Filipina to ever capture a major title in the all-encompassing sport.

The enormity of this achievement alone serves as a relentless motivator for “The Menace.”

She understands that overcoming the odds and accomplishing what no other female mixed martial artist from the Philippines has done before will require unparalleled dedication, skill, and mental fortitude.

“For me, I don’t see it as pressure; I just go with the flow and do what needs to be done. I view it as motivation to bring prestige to the country,” she told Tiebreaker Times.

However, she acknowledges that the path to victory won’t be easy, especially since she faces one of the best pound-for-pound female fighters in the world today.

It’s worth noting that Stamp broke new ground in September 2023 by defeating Zamboanga’s old tormentor – Ham Seo Hee – to sit atop the women’s atomweight MMA division.

This stellar victory enshrined Stamp on record as the very first athlete to become a world champion in three different combat sports.

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“I cannot deny that Stamp is at the top of her game right now. She won belts in Muay Thai and kickboxing. Now, she’s the champion in MMA. It’s unbelievable,” Zamboanga said of her foe.

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Adding to the intrigue of this encounter is the familiarity between Zamboanga and Stamp. Both were teammates at the Fairtex Training Center, giving them an intimate understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

The Pinay heroine cannot ignore the complexity of preparing for Stamp.

“There are so many factors. First and foremost, it’s been four years since we last trained together. That’s a long time. There have been a lot of improvements in her, and she’s even more active than me when it comes to fighting,” Zamboanga stated.

“She knows Muay Thai, kickboxing, and also MMA. She’s been focusing more on improving her grappling skills.”

Despite recognizing Stamp’s evolution as a competitor, Zamboanga remains undaunted.

While Stamp poses to be a daunting opponent, Zamboanga warned that she should not be underestimated.

“If Stamp continues to improve as a fighter, so will I. I think you’ll just see it in our fight. I’ve improved so much now, especially since I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for so long,” she stressed.

Written By

Nissi Icasiano is a sportswriter, analyst and editor from the Philippines. He started his professional career in 2013. He has also written for various media outlets such as, ABS-CBN, Tiebreaker Times,,, South China Morning Post, The Phnom Penh Post and the International Business Times. In 2017, he started a career as a Combat Sports Analyst for television and radio, appearing on various news shows for ABS-CBN, GMA, TV5, Radyo Singko 92.3 News FM, PTV 4, Business World, Radyo Pilipinas 2 and Bombo Radyo Philippines. He practices boxing at Tiger City Boxing Gym whenever he is not writing.

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