Filipina-American striker Jackielou Buntan is all but ready to make her much-anticipated ONE Championship debut. Denice Zamboanga, however, sees her falling to Nat “Wondergirl Fairtex” Jaroonsak of Thailand
The 23-year-old is set to join her teammate, ONE Atomweight Kickboxing World Champion Janet “JT” Todd, among the world’s greatest striking talents in ONE Super Series.
Buntan, who will capaign in the Muay Thai and kickboxing diciplines, is set to face the highly-regarded Wondergirl at ONE: FISTS OF FURY, taking place live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore on Friday, 26 February.
Following in Todd’s footsteps, Buntan has her sights firmly fixated on making a powerful impact in her promotional debut, and working her way eventually to ONE Championship gold.
“Ever since my training partner, Janet Todd, joined ONE Championship, it was pretty much on my radar,” said Buntan. “The end goal is, of course, to get that belt. Muay Thai is where my heart is at, but I did sign up for both Muay Thai and kickboxing. That Muay Thai belt is on my radar.”
Todd, who is Buntan’s chief sparring partner at Boxing Works in Los Angeles, California, where they both hone their skills under renowned coach Bryan Popejoy, joined ONE Super Series in 2019. She captured the ONE Atomweight Kickboxing World Title only a year into her stint in the world’s largest martial arts organization.
When Todd brought the ONE Championship belt back to the gym, Buntan came away inspired. “It lit a huge fire in me,” said Buntan.
“When she won that belt, it was right before the lockdown, and at the time, I was supposed to make my debut. That just got me so pumped to make my debut and represent myself, my gym, my coaches, so that really lit a fire in me. Just seeing my friend, someone I’ve known for so long, who was able to achieve this, made me believe that I can achieve this as well.”
Buntan is excited to be on such a huge card, and says she’s talked to Todd and asked for her advice on her first time in the Circle.
“I haven’t asked her too much about it because we’re both in a camp and training. We’ll talk about different parts of fight camp, but most of it on a mental aspect,” said Buntan.
“She’s taught me to really just trust your training, your coaches, and yourself, that we’re ready for anything and that we’ve seen it all in training. We just have to have confidence to do what we do.”
Meanwhile, first-ranked ONE women’s atomweight mixed martial arts contender Zamboanga picked her Thai friend to wwin the bout over her compatriot.
“I have to go with Wondergirl in this one. I know she’s constantly improving every aspect of her game in every camp. I know her hard work and dedication. Her opponent seems to be also very good, so let’s just see what happens in this fight. It’s going to be a good one. I can’t wait!”, said “The Menace”.
Wondergirl is one of the fastest rising stars in ONE Championship. She is a two-time Thailand Muay Thai Champion. After joining ONE Super Series in mid-2020, Wondergirl racked up two impressive finishes inside the Circle.
Zamboanga previously trained together with Wondergirl at the Fairtex Training Center in Pattaya, forming a close bond as teammates and as friends.
“I’m super excited for this fight. I always enjoy Nat fighting, she’s such an exciting fighter. I will always support her,” said Zamboanga.
Zamboanga is witness to the Thai fighter’s work ethic during their training sessions. While she believes the fight with Buntan will be a competitive one, Zamboanga is confident of her pick.
“She (Wondergirl) is a very strong and very dedicated fighter. Her work ethic is exemplary. She always comes into camp motivated. As a fighter, she’s long and athletic, and packs a lot of power,” said Zamboanga.
Now that they are no longer teammates, Zamboanga and Wondergirl haven’t had much time to spend together. But the 24-year-old Filipina says she will always be in her Thai friend’s corner.
“We are very close friends. We used to be roommates back then. We would always share love and food stories, good fun times. She’s my food buddy and Thai teacher, I love her. I miss spending time with her and Stamp [Fairtex]. I will always support her in and out of the ring. That will never change,” said Zamboanga.
ONE: FISTS OF FURY is a three-part event series, beginning with a live broadcast on 26 February. The main event features a ONE Flyweight Kickboxing World Championship showdown between reigning titleholder Ilias Ennahachi and #2-ranked contender “The Kicking Machine” Superlek Kiatmoo9.
Also on the card is kickboxing legend Giorgio Petrosyan, ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Champion Rodtang “The Iron Man” Jitmuangnon, and the debut of rising teenage star Victoria “The Prodigy” Lee.
By Armando M. Bolislis