Meng Bo ready to take on the top contenders at atomweight Grand Prix
Meng Bo is one of the best female mixed martial artists to emerge from China and is a top contender in the ONE Championship atomweight division. The 24 year old has won her last four fights.
She also holds the unique distinction of being the only fighter to hold a win over current UFC champion, Weili Zhang. Due to injuries and the pandemic, the 14-5 star has only had one bout since signing for ONE Championship.
Her debut came at ONE: ‘Age of Dragons’ last November and she made light work of Laura Balin, finishing her inside the first round. Since then Bo has been using the time off to take her game to the next level,
“I’m doing well. Keep improving my skills, increasing power and physical stamina. The situation is just temporary. During this special period of not being able to compete, I’ve became much more mature as well, both mentally and my competition skills.”
In the mix
Bo has been booked twice to face former title contender Mei Yamaguchi but has yet to see the bout come to fruition. At present the Chinese fighter is the #2 ranked atomweight while the Japanese fighter is ranked at #4.
Bo has plenty of respect for Yamaguchi but believes Denice Zamboanga should not be ranked so high,
“Mei Yamaguchi is a senior MMA fighter who I respect a lot. Due to several reasons, I couldn’t compete with her in the past, I will follow whatever ONE’s arrangement. I’m happy with my current ranking but I desire for something more than this.”
That ‘something more’ could be a title shot but Bo will probably have to win the upcoming tournament to earn it. She would welcome the opportunity to move up the rankings by beating the top contenders,
“As for the top five ranking, I think it’s reasonable. Mei Yamaguchi was ranked as the first place after the atomweight champion, then Denice replaced me to fight Mei Yamaguchi, and Denice won so she replaced Mei’s place in the ranking indisputably. But I think Denice isn’t fully qualified for her ranked place because she’s just the one who replaces me to get the chance.”
The division now finds itself in a unique situation. Champion Angela Lee announced her pregnancy last week. Accordingly, ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong has said that there will be a Grand Prix to decide who will get the belt. With the draw yet to be made, it will be interesting to see if Bo and Yamaguchi finally get to meet,
“Indeed, there are so many talents, but the one who has impressed me the most is still Mei Yamaguchi. Because she keeps pursuing her goal from the very beginning of her glorious moment and never gives up. She deserves my whole respect and I have to learn from her,” Bo said.
While Bo’s respect for the Japanese veteran is clear, she doesn’t appear to have quite the same reverence for #1 contender Zamboanga,
“I believe everyone dreams for the title of champion, but as for her capability, maybe not enough,” she said about the Filipina’s title credentials.
Recent years have delivered a golden generation of Chinese MMA fighters. With Zhang holding the UFC 115lbs strap and Xiong Jing Nan the strawweight queen in ONE, it’s a strong testament to the strength of the country’s female athletes.
Bo is now competing at a slightly lighter weight but has nothing but respect for the two Chinese champions,
“Zhang makes all-out efforts and the whole team supports her, so she became a superstar. No matter in UFC or ONE, the women’s strawweight champions are both Chinese. I believe it indicates how strong of Chinese women MMA athletes. They win glory for our country. I’m proud for them and do respect them,” Bo said.
As well as having beaten Zhang, Bo holds a win over Lin Heqin from their time fighting in China in 2015. Lin is currently ranked #3 at atomweight, so a rematch could well be on the cards sometime soon,
“Lin‘s got really great skills and shows no fear to fight. We both work pretty hard and one day if we have to face each other in the ring, I’m looking forward to it. I respect all contenders,” Bo said.
With Angela Lee expected to be out for an extended spell, any potential match-up will have to be placed on ice. Despite her absence, Bo believes that she has what it takes to seal a landmark win if they do eventually get to compete.
“I have been preparing for the champion, but I know the time has yet to come. So, this special period is a good chance to know and improve myself. I think if I faced Angela, the flight won’t last long, it will be end less than five rounds.”
There is a ONE Championship conference call booked for Tuesday so fans will be watching closely for updates on the situation at atomweight. With so much emerging talent under the age of 25, it is fast becoming one of the most intriguing divisions in the promotion and Bo is at the forefront.