Rewind the clock again to New 12 months’s Day 2020, when Web optimization Hee Ham was contemporary off the largest victory of her MMA profession.
A day earlier, in Saitama Tremendous Enviornment in Japan, Ham had ascended to the highest of the atomweight division with a break up choice victory over Ayaka Hamasaki, lastly securing a win over the top-ranked rival who had overwhelmed her twice earlier than almost 10 years earlier.
And till this week, when she’s going to compete in ONE Championship’s eight-woman atomweight grand prix on Friday (7:30 a.m. EST, YouTube) within the Singapore-based promotion’s ONE: Empower occasion, that momentous tremendous atomweight championship victory whereas competing underneath the Rizin banner was the final time followers had seen her.
It was almost the final time — interval.
“To be sincere, as I ended my time in Rizin, I used to be really fascinated by retiring additionally as a result of I felt like I didn’t have a lot time left in my profession,” Ham just lately instructed The Publish via a translator through Zoom.
After weighing retirement and her different aggressive choices, together with a return to Rizin or UFC — the place she went 1-3 however got here out on the mistaken facet of two shut selections whereas preventing 10 kilos heavier than her pure 105 kilos — or wrapping up her profession near residence in Busan, South Korea, Ham (23-8, seven finishes) settled on a transfer to ONE as a result of it represented a contemporary problem.
However even in her new residence promotion, Ham is approaching her profession as whether it is wrapping up. It’s a sober method for a 34-year-old who turned professional in each kickboxing and MMA in 2007. Heck, she didn’t suppose she would have been preventing this lengthy.
“After I first began MMA, I instructed myself that I’d retire on the age of 30,” Ham stated. “After I reached 30, I stated I’m gonna retire at 33. After I reached 33, I instructed myself I’d retire at 35. And [as I approach 35], I signed a 27-month cope with ONE Championship, so I’ve round two years left with ONE Championship.
“In order that’s one other two years that I’m fascinated by. And who is aware of; I would do effectively, and I would really feel higher than I anticipated, and perhaps I would proceed my profession till 40 years outdated,” she added with amusing. “So, who is aware of. I can’t actually say when is my retirement date as a result of it saved getting prolonged.”
Now dedicated to creating a run at ONE atomweight champion Angela Lee — the grand prix winner will problem Lee at a later date — Ham begins her quest within the quarterfinals in Kallang, Singapore in opposition to Denice Zamboanga of the Philippines. Zamboanga (8-0) is 10 years her junior and coming off a submission victory final August.
Primarily based on ONE’s promotional contender rankings, Zamboanga is the No. 1 contender at atomweight. Knowledge-based rankings at Struggle Matrix record her at No. 27 on this planet at strawweight (ONE’s weight administration program has fighters compete at 10 kilos over the everyday divisional restrict). Ham, who had been No. 1 at atomweight on Struggle Matrix earlier than her elimination attributable to inactivity, respects her opponent’s rating and names her because the “hardest opponent” in that regard, however she isn’t positive the talents match the standing in comparison with the six different ladies within the event discipline.
“Primarily based on ability units and expertise and all these collectively, I don’t know, it’s actually exhausting to say [if Zamboanga is the toughest in the field] as a result of I feel all people has their very own strengths and weaknesses, and all people on the market within the atomweight grand prix are nice athletes,” Ham stated.
The Empower occasion is a primary for ONE: an all-women struggle card topped by a strawweight title struggle between champion Xiong Jin Nan and Michelle Nicolini. Ham stated she’s “grateful” and “honored” to be part of it.
“After this, if ever there’s one other all-woman occasion from ONE Championship, I want to be a part of it once more,” she stated.