Seo Hee Ham Returns To Strawweight, Signs With The UFCDeep Jewels Featherweight Champion Seo Hee Ham will become the first Korean female fighter to compete inside the world-famous Octagon when she makes her UFC debut in the coming months. Ham, who is set to move back up to strawweight, signed with the UFC at the beginning of November.

Ham’s UFC signing was first announced by Road FC officials earlier this week and MMARising.com learned of additional aspects of the deal through a source with knowledge of the situation. Ham recently retained her 48kg Deep Jewels title by submitting Saori “Shooting Star” Ishioka on Monday.

Ham (15-5-0) has been one of MMA’s most skilled female strikers since her professional MMA debut on February 16, 2007, when she shockingly upset then-Deep Women’s Lightweight Champion Hisae Watanabe in a non-title fight. She went on to battle Japan’s top female fighters during her next five fights including pound-for-pound superstars Miku “Supernova” Matsumoto, Yuka “Vale Tudo Queen” Tsuji and Megumi “Mega Megu” Fujii under the Deep and Smackgirl banners.

The proverbial Murderer’s Row of opponents left Ham with a modest 3-3 record through six fights, but she has since won 12 of 14 bouts and both defeats came at the hands of Ayaka Hamasaki in Jewels Lightweight Queen Championship bouts. Following her second loss to Hamasaki, Ham took time off to recover from a back injury. Upon her return this past spring, Ham opted to move back down to her original fighting weight of 48 kilograms (105.6 pounds), where she began her pro career six years prior.

On May 25, 2013, at the final Jewels event, “24th Ring,” Ham outpointed Naho “Sugi Rock” Sugiyama to become the final Jewels Featherweight Queen Champion. Jewels subsequently merged with Deep to form a new faction and Ham’s title was rebranded as the Deep Jewels Featherweight Championship. She successfully retained her title in her first championship defence against Sadae “Manhoef” Numata at Deep Jewels 2 just over one year ago.

With Deep Jewels focusing on promoting its 52kg lightweight and 61.2kg middleweight divisions this year, Ham kept busy by competing for Road Fighting Championship in her home country of South Korea. Prior to 2014, she had never competed in MMA in front of a hometown crowd. She won both of her Road FC fights, besting Shino VanHoose and Alyona Rassohyna in April and August, respectively.

When Ham arrived in Tokyo this past weekend for her Deep Jewels 6 trilogy bout with Ishioka, whom Ham defeated on two prior occasions, she informed Deep Jewels officials that she would be departing to join the UFC roster after defending her title on Monday. Deep Jewels boss Shigeru Saeki was caught off-guard by the news, but allowed the title tilt to proceed and immediately made plans to replenish the 48kg Deep Jewels featherweight division with the impending loss of its reigning champion.

After dropping round one to the challenger, Ham rallied in round two and finished Ishioka with an armbar to retain her championship. She commented after the fight that she would move up in weight for future fights abroad if fans were interested, but in reality, the 27-year-old striker had already committed to making a return to strawweight for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Skill-wise, Ham is already well ahead of some of the other 115-pound female fighters on the UFC/TUF roster, but size and strength could both be key factors in determining whether the South Korean will be able to fight her way into UFC title contendership. Ham’s frame has been best-suited for bouts at 105 pounds, and she is much smaller than potential future foes such as Claudia “Claudinha” Gadelha, Jessica Penne, Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Joanne “JoJo” Calderwood, Juliana “Ju Thai” de Lima Carneiro and Nina “The Strina” Ansaroff, among others.

A date and opponent for Ham’s UFC debut have not yet been officially confirmed, but Road FC officials stated that Ham has signed a four-fight agreement. She is expected to make her debut in the coming months. Her Deep Jewels title will likely be vacated and Deep Jewels officials are already working to set up title contender bouts for early in 2015.

Ayaka Hamasaki, who twice defeated Ham and recently moved down to 48kg, may compete in one such title contention bout on Deep’s star-studded New Year’s Eve card on December 31st.

 

  1. Wow, anther big UFC signing for the Strawweight division. Almost out of nowhere, the sheer number of talented and competitive women could very quickly make the 115lb division one of the premier draws in all of the UFC. I just saw the fantastic fight between Juliana Lima and Nina Ansaroff. Just fantastic, and the TUF Finale for the Championship is only a month away. The future looks very bright for all of these women.

  2. thanks for writing the piece *\(^0^)/*
    a little worried after reading her optimal weight is 105…
    but seeing that she train with ufc dhk, and has flair in striking and top control, i hope she can be another asian that can make marks in north american wmma.