Zebaztian Kadestam Says MMA Pushed Him Through ‘Really Dark’ Mental Health Struggles

Zebaztian Kadestam had his gloves inspected before his match at ONE: FULL CIRCLE

You never know the battle somebody is facing in their own mind, and even elite martial artists like Zebaztian Kadestam deal with difficult struggles that are invisible to others around them.

The former welterweight king – who returns in a welterweight MMA clash against Iuri Lapicus at ONE 160: Ok vs. Lee II on August 26 – always looks ready to take on the world when he enters the Circle.

However, he admits there have been incredibly difficult times when he can barely face the day ahead – something he is now speaking openly about.

“The Bandit” revealed:

“Around when I won the World Title, something happened with my mental state. I was depressed, and I went through a pretty rough time in my personal life. I didn’t want to go outside. I didn’t want to be around people. I was really in a bad spot mentally. I was dealing with a lot of anxiety and depression, and it was a tough time.”

Preparing to compete on the global stage is already one of the most demanding jobs imaginable, and it only becomes harder when you are fighting an internal war.

But fortunately for Kadestam, MMA became his biggest source of motivation to continue pushing forward through his most challenging moments.

The Swedish star told ONE Championship: 

“When you’re in a really dark spot, it kind of sucks the life out of you. If I don’t even want to wake up, if I don’t even want to get out of bed, if I don’t even want to go outside, how am I gonna go through wars every day [in the gym]? 

“I never felt like, ‘I don’t want to fight,’ because I do want to fight. It’s just the matter of how much fight is really inside of you. And now I feel like I’m back where the fire is burning.

“This is what I love to do. Nothing gets me more excited than to fight. Without fighting, I would not have been able to get through what I went through. I think that’s the shift.”

Zebaztian Kadestam ‘Feeling Happy To Be Alive’

After winning and defending the ONE Welterweight World Title, Zebaztian Kadestam lost the belt to Kiamrian Abbasov in October 2019 and then hit a three-fight losing skid.

However, not all losses are equal.

Before he returned to winning ways against Valmir Da Silva at ONE: FULL CIRCLE in February, “The Bandit” dropped a three-round contest to Murad Ramazanov. Even in defeat, he felt back on track mentally.

Kadestam explained:

“If you look at the fight against Murad, maybe you want to say, ‘Oh, that was a good night for him,’ but I felt good. I felt like, ‘Okay, we could go a couple more rounds.’ 

“I felt I made some mistakes or whatever, but the preparation was great. I was in a good state of mind, I was feeling happy to be there, I was feeling happy to be alive and being able to do what I love to do. And that’s how I’m supposed to feel.”

Like many people who battle their mental health, it remains a constant struggle for Kadestam.

At the same time, he’s now better equipped to recognize the signs and start to handle his issues before they fully consume him. 

Doing so has made it easier for the Swede to appreciate everything he has – and he hopes others won’t hesitate to ask for help if they face a similar situation.

“The Bandit” added:

“The past year I’ve been trying to work around that and just get back to enjoying life. I still have days where I’m like, ‘F— this,’ and I can’t put my finger on it, there’s no event or situation or something. Sometimes it comes and it takes over me. 

“But what I’ve learned is that, if I let it, I’m going to be in that dark spot for a long time. And I never want to go back there. So I’m learning to work through it.”


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