Features

Facing Ben Askren Changed Zebaztian Kadestam's Career

July 10, 2018

Zebaztian “The Bandit” Kadestam (9-4) is determined to get a second chance at capturing the ONE Welterweight World Title.

On Friday, 13 July, he will take the necessary steps in securing a second golden opportunity.

He will face Malaysian hero Agilan “Alligator” Thani (9-1) in the main event of ONE: PURSUIT OF POWER, which emanates from the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur.

Kadestam’s opponent is also a former ONE Welterweight World Title challenger, and will be supported by a passionate hometown crowd. The Swedish star is expecting a tough bout, but he is prepared for it.

“I am always training hard for a 15 or 25-minute war, and sometimes when things click, it can be all over very quickly,” the 27-year-old from Stockholm says.

“I believe in hard work and preparing right, so when fight night comes, I will be ready. If he falls, he falls.”

Kadestam feels especially prepared for this headlining tilt, because he is coming off the biggest lesson of his mixed martial arts career.

Last September, he challenged ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben “Funky” Askren for the belt at ONE CHAMPIONSHIP: SHANGHAIThe American leaned on his Olympic-level wrestling to ground the Swedish striker en route to a second-round TKO.

“The Bandit” did not expect to stop all of Askren’s takedowns, but he was surprised by his adversary’s ability to find dominant positions, as well as the volume of punches he was able to unload in his ground and pound attack.

Although he lost, Kadestam believes the overall experience has improved him significantly as a martial artist, and has helped him to prepare for the challenges in his future.

“This defeat was the best learning experience of my career, because during my whole camp I was learning so much to prepare for Ben’s wrestling. It meant I developed as a martial artist just through the process of doing my training camp,” he explains.

“In the bout, I could see what he was trying to do, and his answers to what I was trying to do. Every 10 seconds, there was something he was doing that I could learn from. He was one step ahead of me in the whole bout, and I learned so much from experiencing that. 

“I think my wrestling game has improved and changed completely as a result of that bout, and I am seeing it in my training. I get to a position and think: ‘How did I get to this position?’ It is from my experience of competing against Ben.

“Obviously, I was angry and disappointed immediately after the loss, but it was a learning experience, and it has actually made me a lot better. Martial arts is a journey, so you have to appreciate the ups and downs.”

Kadestam has been out of action since that fateful night in China, but he has spent his time away from competition healing some injuries and enhancing his skill set at Pancrase Gym Sweden.

With improved grappling and his already-devastating Muay Thai striking, he feels well-equipped for his upcoming match-up at ONE: PURSUIT OF POWER.

Thani, a 22-year-old BJJ specialist known for his aggressive ground game, has never lost in his homeland.

However, “The Bandit” believes he could be the first athlete to defeat “Alligator” in his hometown of Kuala Lumpur.

He sees some similarities between Thani and Askren, but he feels more suited for the Malaysian due to his recent learning experience.

“I think he is kind of the same, but not on the same level,” Kadestam says.

“He is good, he is a grinder, and he is tough. He comes forward and tries to get his thing going, so I think it is going to be a tough, back-and-forth bout. He looks good, so I am looking forward to it.

“Anything can happen, but I feel my striking means I can finish it standing. He is tough, so it could go the distance, and I am fine with that, too. I believe I have developed as a martial artist and I believe in my skills against his.”

This bout is especially important because another high-stakes welterweight clash will take place on the main card, as Kadestam’s old rival Luis “Sapo” Santos faces unbeaten juggernaut, Tyler McGuire.

Each athlete is vying for a chance to compete for the ONE Welterweight World Title, so the Swede knows he must deliver an eye-catching performance to solidify his status as a top contender.

“I need to get a good win in this bout, then hopefully I will be right up there, and maybe compete for the belt next,” he acknowledges.

“I lost to Ben, but everybody lost to Ben, so that does not make me a bad fighter. In fact, it made me a better fighter. I am always trying to go out and put on a show. But above everything else, I need to win.”

Kuala Lumpur | 13 July | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onepursuit18