Seo Hee Ham wants a shot at the atomweight title. But the Korean isn’t willing to sit on the sidelines waiting for Angela Lee to drop back down a division in order to defend her belt.

She is set to face Itsuki Hirata at ONE 163 next week and says she is just happy to stay active,

“Although (I expected) my next opponent to be Angela Lee my main intention was to have a match so it didn’t matter to me that my next opponent was Itsuki or someone else.”

Lee was handed a strawweight title shot earlier this year. It means the atomweight belt is likely to remain on her shelf until 2023 and Ham did not want to just sit on the sidelines and wait for the champion to return,

“Getting that ONE Championship title is really such a dream for me but while I was taking a break Angela Lee was participating in matches. So I can’t just sit still and watch, while she continues to take on opponents. I don’t want to fall short of that circle experience. I want to make sure I’m doing my best to get those wins and do what I love, get that action, and train for it.”

Risk and reward

The perception is that this is a fight that carries little reward and a high level of risk for the Korean. She is already in pole position for a shot at Angela Lee and a win over the unranked Hirata is unlikely to change that.

But a loss would leave her a long way from a title shot and she knows this is a very important fight in that respect,

“I believe there is a learning point to every match. So regardless of any match with any opponent I don’t believe there is anything to lose. Every match is an opportunity to take more than I give.”

But while she admits to wanting that title shot she does not agree with the people who have been telling her she has too much to lose,

“To me, of course being a titleholder in ONE Championship is of great importance but participating in matches is equally important to me. So even though many people tell me that there is more to lose in this match, that’s not how I perceive it.”

Gulf in experience

Hirata’s only experience prior to signing for ONE Championship came on a reality TV show in Japan. By contrast Ham had already held titles with Deep-Jewels, Road FC and Rizin when she signed for the promotion as well as having a brief stint in the UFC.

Hirata was automatically awarded a ONE Championship contract after winning the Fighting Agent War Season 3 tournament in 2018 but Ham feels things have happened to quickly for a 23 year old she considers lacking in experience,

“Every fighter has a learning curve. To compare us two, I am a veteran and she is an athlete with many milestones ahead of her, since comparatively she lacks the experience. I feel that she will learn more skills and a mindset that she can apply against greater opponents if she were to learn things slowly, from the bottom up.”

Words are cheap but Ham can make that point much more effectively with a dominant win next week. There is certainly a gulf in experience and the Korean sees this as the final obstacle on her route to a ONE Championship title shot,

“The moment I signed with ONE there was only one goal, to be able to wear the ONE Championship belt around my waist and own it. So to progress towards that and achieve it would be the optimal outcome.”