ONE Championship welterweight contender Zebaztian “The Bandit” Kadestam might have been born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden, but he found his second home 5,792 miles away from his birthplace.
With a professional record of nine wins and three losses, Kadestam believes that the well-established mixed martial arts scene in the Philippines played a pivotal role in his career and to where he is presently.
Kadestam is one of the few foreign nationals who opted to make a run for the money and compete professionally in the country, joining the industry’s household names such as Pete Brooks, Hideo Morikawa, Nicholas Mann, and fellow ONE Championship competitor Igor Subora.
The 26-year-old Swedish striker raised his stock as a cage combatant in the Philippines, training out of Legacy Gym in Boracay, Aklan under the tutelage of decorated kickboxer Ole Laursen since 2012.
Kadestam had four exciting bouts in the Philippines, including an 11-second stoppage of Finnish rival Glenn Sparv in April 2016 to capture the welterweight championship of a regional promotion.
Kadestam’s impressive run in the local mixed martial arts circuit served as his footstool to be noticed by ONE Championship, which is widely regarded as the premier organization of the sport in Asia.
When asked if the Philippines had a big contribution to his success, Kadestam simply replied, “Definitely, I would not have come to this country if I were not certain of having a career here.”
“The Philippines is my home away from home. It’s a beautiful country. My stay in the Philippines for four years sparkplugged my professional career in the sport. I am grateful for everything that this country has given me,” he added.
A late withdrawal opened up an opportunity for Kadestam to jump to the upper echelon of ONE Championship’s welterweight division.
After Vuyisile Colossa was forced to withdraw from his bout, Kadestam agreed to replace him on two weeks notice and test his mettle with former ONE Welterweight World Title challenger Luis “Sapo” Santos on the undercard of ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES last May.
Kadestam made headlines when he defeated Santos as the little-known Swede had been completely dominated in the opening two rounds of the contest before pulling off a miraculous knockout in the final stanza.
“The Bandit” turned the tide midway of the third round by sprawling a sluggish takedown attempt from the Brazilian, then reversed position, and hammered his opponent with strikes from side control.
A pair of hard knees put the finishing touches as the referee stepped in to call a halt to the match at 2:18 of the third and final frame.
Kadestam’s astounding victory over Santos swiftly earned him a world title opportunity as he is set to lock horns with the toughest opponent of his professional career in Ben “Funky” Askren.
Both men are set to face each other in the main event of ONE CHAMPIONSHIP: SHANGHAI, which happens at the 15,000-capacity Shanghai Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai, China on Saturday.
With a few days to go before the biggest bout in his prizefighting stint, Kadestam vows to shock the world once more as he shares the ONE Championship cage with Askren, who is universally recognized as one of the best welterweights in the world today with an immaculate record of 16-0.
“I am no pushover. I am not someone’s footstool. On September 2nd, I will once again shock the world. Ben Askren is only a man, and he is beatable. The belt will soon be mine,” he declared.
Askren is highly regarded for his outstanding wrestling background that earned him two NCAA Division I national championship trophies and the privilege to represent the United States at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Known by the moniker “Funky,” Askren made an impact in his first two assignments in ONE Championship, submitting Bakhtiyar Abbasov with an arm-triangle choke in his May 2014 promotional debut before thwarting Nobutatsu Suzuki in the first round to claim the organization’s coveted welterweight crown three months later.
Askren is coming off a spectacular first-round submission triumph over Malaysia’s Agilan “The Alligator” Thani this past May, keeping his unbeaten standing intact and the ONE Welterweight World Championship belt around his waist.
Despite the uphill task of defeating Askren, there is not an ounce of doubt in Kadestam’s mind.
“I wish I could sit there with some popcorn and watch this fight myself,” he stressed. “It is going to be a war!”