The Man Behind Zebaztian Kadestam's World Championship Success

ONE Welterweight World Champion Zebaztian Kadestam

Zebaztian “The Bandit” Kadestam‘s hard work has elevated him to the top of the martial arts world, but there is another driving force behind the ONE Welterweight World Champion that has been crucial to his success.

The 28-year-old Swede is just days away from his first World Title defense in the main event of ONE: REIGN OF VALOR, and his coach Omar Bouiche at Pancrase Gym Sweden has once again orchestrated his training camp and bout preparation.

“He is really hard on me — not only to show up all the time, but to perform in training and do what he asks,” Kadestam reveals ahead of his showdown with Georgiy “Knight” Kichigin at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar on Friday, 8 March.

“He looks at me, he sees what I can do, and he’s thinking 10 years ahead, so if in any session I am not performing, I am setting his plan back. He is keeping me on track.”

Kadestam and Bouiche’s relationship started nearly a decade ago when the young dynamo walked through the doors of his coach’s gym in Stockholm to begin his mixed martial arts journey.

Before “The Bandit” could truly become successful, however, he needed to escape his homeland to put himself on the right path.

First, he went to Ole Laursen’s Legacy Gym in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand to continue learning Muay Thai, and then he went to the gym’s Philippines branch in Boracay.

He began his professional career in Asia and visited Pancrase Gym Sweden on his brief visits back home, but that changed a few years ago when Kadestam decided he needed to work under Bouiche full-time.

“I came back for a fight in Sweden, and I finished off a fight camp here at Pancrase,” he explains.

“Right away, I could see the quality of the guys at my size and the quality of what we were doing was a lot higher.

“I lost that fight, and it was because of my lack of wrestling and ground game. What better way was there to improve that than over here? Omar Bouiche is a wizard on the ground.”

Kadestam did not return to Asia. Instead, he moved back to Stockholm so he could continue his development under Bouiche’s watch.

The Algerian-born coach was a mixed martial arts pioneer in his adopted home of Sweden, and he was years ahead of the curve in Europe. He first competed in Japan in November 1997, and spent time learning from the legendary Bas Rutten in the United States.

Bouiche’s competitive career was short, but he believed in the effectiveness of the techniques he had learned. That inspired him to open his own gym in Stockholm to teach and mentor the next generation of martial artists.

He has an iron-fisted approach, which stems from the raw, battle-tested way he learned his trade. But most importantly for his World Champion student, he has vision.

“I had a fight a few years back where I lost, and I got really upset,” Kadestam recalls.

“We were back in the locker room, and he said, ‘There were moments in this fight where I saw you had potential for greatness.’

“That’s something that stuck around with me since then. He sees stuff like that, and he wants to make me complete and reach my potential in the fullest way.”

We ready to defend whats ours 🇸🇪@pancrasegym #pancrasegym@kampsportslabbet #kampsportslabbet#FightTeam

Posted by Zebaztian "The Bandit" Kadestam on Sunday, March 3, 2019

Since they began their journey together in earnest, Kadestam has improved rapidly. His striking was already a huge asset, but he has also rounded out his game and continues to tighten up his skills.

He sits at the top of the welterweight division, but that does not mean there is time to relax. In fact, Bouiche has doubled his efforts so “The Bandit” can maintain his grasp on the gold.

“I need someone to be a little bit hard on me,” Kadestam explains.

“Most days, I love this and I think it’s fun. Other days, something is hurting and I have no energy. But if I want to keep reaching my dreams, I need someone to tell me to go after it in every single practice.

“There’s not a session where I’m just going through the motions. That’s why I appreciate he has this plan, and he spends so much time with me — it’s like he’s playing as me in a video game, and leveling me up in every session.”

@omarbouiche the man behind team @pancrasegym since 1996.Thank you for your knowledge and commitment , improving…

Posted by Zebaztian "The Bandit" Kadestam on Friday, June 1, 2018

Kadestam is full of admiration for his coach, and he looks up to him both inside and outside of the gym. However, he feels maintaining a certain distance is beneficial so their relationship can be at its most fruitful.

He wants Bouiche to put his progression ahead of his feelings, as that is what will keep them a few steps ahead of the competition.

“I look up to him a lot as a person because of his knowledge about fighting and life in general, but our relationship is mostly here in the gym,” the Swede offers.

“I think there’s a reason for it. We’re friends, but not too good, because he wants to crack the whip on me whenever he needs to. At the moment, we have the perfect relationship to do what we need to do.”

More than anything, what unites them is a common goal — it might be a never-ending task, but both student and teacher are driven by it.

“He’s looking for perfection, and I’m dreaming of perfection,” Kadestam states. “So it’s a perfect match.”

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