“I can say that with confidence. I haven’t said no to any fighter. “
South Korea’s Seo Hee Ham didn’t always want to be a professional fighter. In fact, as an adult, she wanted to be a soldier. Instead of fighting for her country, she proudly represents it with a carefully crafted legacy of being a great athlete of all time.
Around 2004, Ham enrolled in taekwondo at the gym near her home. She quickly found that the gym wasn’t just focused on an art, but also taught kickboxing, muay thai and MMA itself. Starting with taekwondo, Ham honed her skills enough to eventually impress the gym owner so much that he told her she was able to do anything she wanted in martial arts.
To begin her MMA career, she was given this opportunity to make greater impact than many could ever dream of – mostly for good reason.
During Ham’s first three years as a professional mixed martial artist, she was entrusted with a handful of the most important founders of the atomic weight and straw weight division. It all started with her debut against Japanese Hisae Watanabe in February 2007.
Matchmaking was clearly problematic at the time and it should be a walk in the park for the 17-4 Watanabe. Known as the most devastating knockout artist in the history of the 105-pound weight class, Watanabe took her biggest career win in what is arguably what is still the division’s biggest fight.
In a way, Ham’s ignorance was truly bliss. The taekwondo specialist, completely new to MMA, had nothing to fear and everything to gain – and that is exactly what she did.
Korea’s best has done what is probably the most underrated surprise ever seen in MMA. When Ham received the unanimous nod of the decision, he immediately met even more famous people like Miku Matsumoto, Yuka Tsuji and even Megumi Fujii.
“I wasn’t really surprised because I went there to win,” Ham told MyMMANews of her debut on BROADENED HORIZIN. “But I was very happy. That was the time in my career when I didn’t know what MMA really was. It was MMA and I didn’t even know what ‘M’ was. This is the time. But I was happy because I could travel and see some new things in my life and win the fight so it was a good and happy experience for me.
“Every fight is an uphill battle. I don’t think there’s an easy fight out there. This is MMA, this is a fight where you only know what is going to happen when you actually go into that ring, cage or circle against your opponent. That’s what i did I went in there and didn’t care about her name, her record, nothing like that. It was just a fighter against a fighter, a human against a human, and it is exactly what it is. Maybe that’s why I’ve come all the way so far, I’m not sure. “
Currently, Seo Hee Ham holds a 23-8 record where she is unbeaten south of 115 pounds. The last time fans were treated to a “Hamderlei” performance was at the legendary RIZIN 20 event that closed 2019. In addition to year-end, it was a massive milestone and hump for the 34-year-old to overcome as she defeated her fiercest rival.
RIZIN’s first defending nuclear champion was a legend, Ayaka Hamasaki, who had two victories against Ham in her illustrious career. Looking better than ever after the UFC, Ham had compiled a five-win table that consisted of four knockout games of some of the division’s best.
The trilogy battle between the two undeniably best fighters their weight had ever seen was unsurprisingly an instant classic as it culminated at each of their peaks. In the end, Ham achieved her redemption and her most recent world title on a razor-thin matter by separate decision.
“The only thing I can say is that I treat all of my fights equally and am never satisfied with my fights,” Ham said of whether or not the Hamasaki win was the most satisfying of her career. “I always wanted to do more and I always wanted to be better. So I can’t say that this was the most satisfying win for me, it was just one more fight in my career and it was just one of the fights out of all of my fights. But it’s true that it was a fight in a very new promotion, a very new phase, it was basically still new to me. It was a good experience that I finally beat them, yes, but it wasn’t the most satisfying win or anything.
“In RIZIN I love Japan. So that was good. Since it is the largest organization in Japan, I always wanted to see the stage there and I can’t say anything bad about it. It was a very good experience. “
Starting with the historic DEEP promotion at SmackGirl, Jewels, the South Korean ROAD FC and even the UFC, Ham was there and did so in their weight classes. Despite conquering the RIZIN crown in her last break, another change of scene has come to fruition.
Ham has been 12-0 since 2011 without her UFC run, with her current form undoubtedly being her best. The native Gangwon province will now carry over their winning streak of six fights to ONE Championship, accompanied by a shipload of experience.
“It’s very simple. After seeing the UFC, I learned there was nothing to be afraid of. It made all the difference,” she began.
“I’ve seen a lot of promotions and I can say that each promotion is very different. They have their own style you know But if you look at my career, every time I sign with this new organization, it was when that organization was at its peak or when it had most of the limelight for that department. As for the moment, ONE Championship and Atomic Weight, I believe that ONE Championship Atomic Weight is the deepest, it has the most spotlight. Every time I switch to this organization I believe that the organization was the most in the spotlight, it was the hottest for my weight.
“When I sign a new campaign, I don’t treat it the same way, I’ve tried to take everything in.”
PhotoCred: Asian MMA
Things will be new to Ham in some ways, but familiar in others. Ham is participating in ONE and will do so as a participant in his eight women atomic weight grand prix tournament that will determine the next challenger for current champion Angela Lee.
In Ham’s 14-year career, she has fought each year until 2020, making it her longest layoff. While that wasn’t the plan, Ham took the extra time to her advantage by doing some things she might not be able to while being so consistently active. But much has been done in preparation for the return.
Ham competed at 115 pounds as straw weight in the UFC, which is the weight she will return to in ONE’s atomic weight division. Losing three to just one win this stint against all current 125-pound flyweights, Bec Rawlings, Cortney Casey and Joanne Calderwood, Ham has sought to make a significant physical change for this final run of their career.
“I can tell I’m excited, but that word might not be right,” she said. “It’s like meeting your loved one or someone. That’s how your heart pumps isn’t it? That’s how I feel right now. This is my debut in ONE championship … and my debut is for the Grand Prix. This women’s Grand Prix is the first time in the history of ONE Championship, so something very new.
“[Gaining muscle] is something that I planned. After signing to ONE Championship and getting my date for debut, I already knew I was going to fight someone taller than me. So I deliberately enlarged my body. Then I built more muscles so that my opponents wouldn’t overwhelm me. It was planned and I think my plan is going well.
“During my time at the UFC, I tried to make my body bigger, but I failed every time,” added Ham. “My normal walking weight has never increased. It stayed the same, I don’t know why. But when I was preparing for ONE championship, I changed my method and my body got bigger and my walk weight is much heavier than my usual walk weight. Because of this, I am very confident that I will be a different Seo Hee Ham than in the UFC. “
PhotoCred: ROAD FC
Ham must defeat three of the best fighters ONE has to offer at 115 to face “The Unstoppable” Lee – a fight she could very well have gotten to when she arrived. It all starts with Denice Zamboanga’s undefeated 9-0 defeat for Ham – it’s just a matter of when COVID-19 postponed the original fight date to May 28th.
Already considered by many to be the greatest fighter in their country and arguably an atomic weight of 105 pounds, it is an understatement to say that Seo Hee Ham would cement her legendary status by conquering ONE gold … but don’t think for a second she will feel it just like that.
“In my entire career, I’ve never really expected a result or never said I’ll do this or that,” said Ham. “I’m just trying my best in this circle or cage, you know? But my preparation for this fight went so well. For the first time I can say that I would like to turn them off. Most people know that I am a fighter who likes to go to the end. As if it’s a five round fight or three rounds, it doesn’t matter. I like to use all the time. I like to go the distance. But for this fight I don’t know why, I really can’t explain because I don’t know either. I really want to take them down, I want to turn them off.
“I’ve never thought I was a legend in my life. To be honest, I believe there are so many fighters out there who are better than me. It’s just that they’ve never had a chance to fight me. There are also fighters who are much more talented than me and have not yet made their debut. That’s what i’m thinking I’ve just been in the sport for a long time and was lucky enough to have a lot of fights. It is true that most of the fights went well, the results were good. But I don’t think I’m a legend. I’ve never thought of that before.
“I’m just happy that I was able to continue in this sport and when I feel like there is a new challenge for me, like ONE championship, I think this was a new stage to challenge myself “she continued. “I’m just happy that I can do what I love and try to experience as much as possible until I can’t anymore.”
BROADENED HORIZIN Ep. 8 GERMAN AUDIO BELOW:
The following Japanese version (JAPANESE VERSION BELOW):
Drake is an MMA writer from Brush Prairie, Washington, USA who specializes in feature films, the female fight scene, lists, reporting, and rankings. He has been a passionate MMA fan since 2009. Drake has primarily written for BJPenn.com, FanSided, The Body Lock, the South China Morning Post, MyMMANews, WhatCulture, Cageside Press, Sherdog, The Scrap, and MMA Today. He has also written and created video content for RT Sport. As with other sports, Drake has been a long-time fan of the Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL.
You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @DrakeRiggs_. Also, check out all of his video content on YouTube at YouTube.com/DrakeRiggs, where he uploads fighter interviews, pod shows, and various other types of content.