Zebaztian “The Bandit” Kadestam may be a new name to ONE Championship, but a late withdrawal has opened up an opportunity for him to jump to the top of the welterweight division.
After Vuyisile Colossa was forced to withdraw from his upcoming bout, the 26-year-old Swede has agreed to replace him on two weeks notice, and clash with former ONE Welterweight World Title challenger Luis “Sapo” Santos at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES. The event takes place on Friday, 26 May, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Santos is the overwhelming favorite in this contest. The 37-year-old Brazilian, who trains out of American Top Team, holds black belts in judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He owns an impressive professional record of 63-9-1, 1 No Contest, with 36 victories coming by TKO and 13 by submission.
As if those numbers were not daunting enough, “Sapo” has won nine of his past 10 matches, with the other — a title shot against current ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben Askren — being ruled a No Contest.
Kadestam will certainly have his hands full in his promotional debut, but he would not have it any other way.
“The bigger the obstacle, the greater the glory,” the Swede says. “He is at the top. I want in.”
A victory over Santos would undoubtedly rocket the Stockholm native to the top of the welterweight ranks, and almost certainly put him in title contention. For “The Bandit,” the potential rewards far outweigh the risks.
“This is my shot to take a big step towards my dream in just one night, and I like my chances a lot,” he says, confidently. “I will show I belong in there with the best, even without training.”
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If history is any indication, Kadestam will not have a hard time proving he belongs.
With an 8-3 professional record, the Legacy MMA standout and Pacific Xtreme Combat Welterweight Champion has already proved he is more than capable. Of those eight victories, six come by way of TKO.
If Santos enters this match with the intention to exchange strikes, he will find a game Kadestam. After all, “The Bandit” is a Muay Thai practitioner who prefers to avoid grappling and ground fighting.
“I would rather go out on my feet than roll around on the ground,” he says.
That is not to say the Swedish slugger is unfamiliar with fighting for submissions. In fact, his introduction to martial arts came courtesy of judo when he was just 10 years old. It was there that his desire for more high-impact and aggressive training got the better of him.
“I just remember I stopped training because I was too playful,” he explains. “I wanted to throw people like I saw all the older people, but my patience got the best of me that time, so I stopped.”
Although Kadestam now says he wished he continued with judo, he discovered Muay Thai two years later, and never looked back. He racked up a 10-3 Muay Thai record, including a stint as the WBC World Champion, and soon turned his sights towards MMA.
“The Bandit” made his professional debut in 2011, and quickly won five of his first six bouts. In recent years, however, his activity has slowed. He missed most of 2016 with a hip injury, and now looks to rebound in his ONE debut.
Despite the uphill task of defeating Santos, there is not an ounce of doubt in Kadestam’s mind. After all, he reiterates that he has “hunger, heart, and faith in my skills.” Beyond that, he is ready to put on a show.
“I wish I could sit there with some popcorn and watch this fight myself,” he chuckles. “It is going to be a war!”