Mehdi “Diamond Heart” Zatout is proof that an unbreakable warrior spirit can lead to amazing results.
The French-Algerian striker didn’t have the easiest run when he joined ONE Super Series. But his return to form has earned him the chance to challenge ONE Bantamweight Kickboxing World Champion Capitan Petchyindee Academy for the gold at ONE: REVOLUTION on Friday, 24 September.
After nearly a year and a half away from competition, Zatout stepped back into the ring in 2020 and earned two straight wins over elite opposition. But, despite his recent success, he still struggled to process the World Title opportunity given to him by ONE Championship’s matchmakers.
“When I got the offer by phone, I had to say, ‘Please repeat what you said, because I cannot believe you,’” he recalls.
“For me to come back to the game [and get the World Title shot] is so amazing. It is a big dream for me. I want to make my family and my team proud.”
At 37, Zatout is nine years his rival’s senior, and this is likely to be his last chance to make a run at the most coveted prize in the striking arts.
However, as “Diamond Heart” has shown, age is just a number. He usurped younger opponents in Han Zi Hao and Leo Pinto in both of his last two outings, and the Venum Training Camp Thailand product believes he is in the best shape of his life.
“Yes, I’m 37 now, but I feel better than I did at 25 years old. Believe me, I feel great, and I will not let this chance go,” he says.
“The age doesn’t matter. It’s about what’s inside, what your mentality will be, and who will be strong. You will see my motivation is stronger than his.”
The task ahead will be far from easy, though.
Capitan has been in spectacular form since entering ONE Super Series. He announced his arrival with a record-breaking six-second knockout over Petchtanong Petchfergus in September 2020 – a feat that Zatout has his own opinion of.
“For me, that was a lucky punch in the first round with Petchtanong. Yes, good, but a lucky punch. Congratulations to him,” he says.
The Petchyindee Academy representative’s second promotional bout was of much greater consequence to “Diamond Heart.”
Capitan challenged Zatout’s student and friend Alaverdi “Babyface Killer” Ramazanov for his ONE Bantamweight Kickboxing World Title in January and knocked out the Russian in the second round to claim the belt.
While the French-Algerian veteran does not think Ramazanov was at his best for that contest, he has a burning desire to seek redemption for his young charge.
“This fight will be a big war because I’m still on fire from the last fight, when he fought with Alaverdi,” he says. “I’ve kept this fire. The war is coming, and I will not run away.”
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With that hunger inside of him, “Diamond Heart” is prepared to go where others won’t.
Zatout knows that Capitan is a fearless fighter who will move forward and throw heavy leather, but he is prepared to meet the Thai standout in the middle of the Circle and play him at his own game.
“Capitan is a great fighter — aggressive and clever too. I will be more aggressive and more clever than him,” he says.
“He comes forward with kicks and punches like many fighters. I will show my speed, my boxing skill, my power, and my cardio on the day. I think we have a lot of chances to win.”
Zatout may have thought he’d never get the chance to fight for ONE Super Series gold, but now that it’s here, he will not let it slip from his fingers.
The French-Algerian star has worked hard to get to this point in his 27-year martial arts journey, and he has even won an ISKA World Title and a WBC Muay Thai World Title along the way.
But the ONE Bantamweight Kickboxing World Title is the richest prize in the sport, and winning that championship would be the greatest reward for his years of dedication and sacrifice.
“I’m proud of myself, and now is the time to get the belt on my shoulder,” he says. “I think I will cry [if I win the belt]. It will be great for me — for all I did in my career. I won’t let this chance go.”