Drex Zamboanga: Atomweight Grand Prix but winner should be crowned champion

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ONE Championship flyweight and former regional Philippine champion Drex “T-Rex” Zamboanga thinks the impending Women’s Atomweight Grand Prix is a good idea but feels the winner should claim the title.

“To be honest, I think the atomweight belt should have been vacated, and let the top two ranked fighters contend for it. The atomweight world title belongs to the division, and if the champion wants to keep it, they need to fight to defend it,” said Drex.

“The Atomweight Grand Prix [however,] is a great concept. It’s an opportunity for Denice to win a prestigious world title. It’s the same title held by a legend like Demetrious Johnson. We are very grateful ONE Championship is doing this for the women’s atomweight division.”

It will be recalled ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion Angela Lee announced her pregnancy with husband Bruno Pucci some two weeks ago. With the superstar sidelined for at least until late 2021, questions about the future of the division, especially the status of the ONE World Title, began to arise.

ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong shortly after announced plans for a ONE Atomweight World Grand Prix, pitting the top talents in the division against each other. The winner of the tournament will take home a Grand Prix belt, and become the number one contender to face Lee when she returns.

This apparently did not sit well with the Zamboangas initially, as Denice had already been penciled in to face Lee for the World Title before Covid-19 hit and before Lee became pregnant.

“In my opinion, there is no need to determine who should fight Angela when she comes back, as 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.

Just recently, a back-and-forth war of words ensued between Denice and Angela, as the two athletes traded barbs on social media and through interviews with various outlets. Lee told media that she did not believe Denice had done enough to earn her number one status, and that she should defeat more ranked opponents in order to truly be worthy of a shot at the belt.

Denice clapped back at the Singaporean superstar, imploring the champion to vacate her title as she would be unable to defend it due to personal reasons. It’s a sentiment Drex backed and now fully supports.

“It has already been a year since Angela last fought to defend that title. No champion of any combat sport can keep their title for more than a year without defending it. 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.”

Right now however, ONE Championship is firm on proceeding with the Atomweight Grand Prix, although concrete details, including dates and participants have yet to be officially announced. It is assumed that Denice will be one of the participants, as she currently ranks first in the top five.

If Denice can power past the other atomweight contenders and capture the Grand Prix title, Drex believes she will have gained even more experience and even better skills for when she and Angela finally meet in the ONE Circle.

“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,” said Drex.

By Armando M. Bolislis, ONE Chmapionshp photo