Jonathan Di Bella is proud to live his own underdog story.
In the main event of ONE 162 last Friday, the Italian-Canadian striker defeated highly touted Chinese sensation Zhang Peimian in an unforgettable five-round war to capture the vacant ONE Strawweight Kickboxing World Title.
Going into the fight, Di Bella felt disrespected by his opponent, who boldly predicted a KO finish.
Given his own undefeated professional record, the 26-year-old viewed that proclamation as an affront to his skills – and he used it as motivation.
Afterward, he recalled hearing plenty of trash talk from Zhang:
“All week, and last week, and the week before, and leading up to the fight, he was saying he was going to knock me out. That I was not going to last three rounds. But guess what? He went down, and I broke him mentally.”
Indeed, Di Bella scored a dramatic knockdown in the final frame, sealing the decision victory in one of the most entertaining ONE Kickboxing World Title fights ever seen.
And beyond the 26 pounds of gold now around his waist, the newly crowned king is thrilled to have surprised the many fans and pundits who expected his 19-year-old foe to claim the belt.
“It means a lot. Especially, coming here in his territory, and in Asia, and everybody had it against me. I believe it was 75-25 percent for him. Against all odds I told you, I was going to give you a war. I told you I was going to do my talking in the Circle, and I did.”
Winning the World Title the way he did – as a perceived underdog in enemy territory – was a moment that Di Bella had envisioned for years.
In fact, it’s something he thought about when he was just a child dreaming of worldwide combat sports glory.
The Montreal native said:
“I pictured this fight even when I was a little kid. I pictured myself like Rocky in ‘Rocky IV’ against Drago. And this is a perfect matchup because everybody was against me. He was the monster of the division and I just took him out.”
Jonathan Di Bella Open To ‘Dream’ Fight With Demetrious Johnson
Once he takes a much-needed break following his ONE Strawweight Kickboxing World Title victory, Jonathan Di Bella is prepared to battle any and all challengers.
While there are plenty of options, the elite striker would love to face MMA GOAT and reigning ONE Flyweight World Champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson.
Di Bella said:
“Anybody that ONE puts in front of me in the kickboxing division. Anybody. I heard also Demetrious wants to come to kickboxing. If he wants to come to kickboxing, I’m open. I’ll respect it if he wants to come to kickboxing.
I’m open here because I know he’s at 125 [pounds]. I know he called out another kickboxer to do kickboxing. So if he’s open to [coming down to] 125, respectfully, it would be an honor to fight him.”
Of course, Johnson hasn’t shied away from testing himself in other disciplines.
Well aware of Johnson’s elite skills and unmatched accomplishments in the all-around sport, Di Bella hopes to someday face him at an iconic North American venue.
The Italian-Canadian added:
“Yeah, he’s the goat in MMA, he’s one of the greatest of all time in MMA and it will be an honor to fight him, especially in kickboxing. I know he’s a good striker. He knocked out guys, and he knocked out Henry Cejudo in MMA with knees and everything.
“So I know he’s a high-level striker and that fight will be great at Madison Square Garden. That’ll be a dream of mine, for me and Demetrious at Madison Square Garden [in New York] in ONE Championship is my dream.”