Zebaztian Kadestam  celebrates his victory at the One: Dynasty of Heroes event. Photo: One Championship
Zebaztian Kadestam celebrates his victory at the One: Dynasty of Heroes event. Photo: One Championship

What a difference a day makes. Boracay-based fighter Zebaztian Kadestam came to Singapore for the ONE: Dynasty of Heroes fight card as a complete unknown, and with no money in his pocket.

Rumor was the Swede left with tens of thousands of dollars tucked safely away in his bank account – and now his eyes are on a world title shot. Kadestam’s stunning third-round knockout of the seasoned-veteran Luis Santos left the crowd inside the Singapore Indoor Arena rubbing their eyes in disbelief back on May 26. Ten days later and the 26-year-old Swede says he knows exactly how they felt.

He can still hardly believe it himself.

Zebaztian Kadestam can hardly believe his fortune after an upset MMA win in Singapore. Photo: One Championship

“There were plenty of dos and don’ts coming into the fight,” says Kadestam. “I only focused on the dos. I was broke before – I am broke always – but now I am happy. It’s my time.”

The win against the highly-regarded Santos puts Kadestam in the frame for a shot against the current ONE welterweight world champion, American Ben Askren – one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet. The Swede says it can’t come quick enough.

“I was back at the gym the day after the fight,” he says. “The reason I signed with One was because I want to fight Askren. So, the sooner the better. I know how good he is and everybody knows how good he is. But I’d be ready to fight next weekend. I love to fight.”

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Luis Santos(left) wear a right foot from the Swede during their welterweight clash. Photo: One Championship

Kadestam came into the fight against Santos with a record of 8-3, and a career that had so far seen him battling away on the lesser-known Pacific Xtreme Combat series in destinations such as Guam, and off a loss to Finland’s Juho Valamaa on the Superior Challenge 15 card in Stockholm on April 1.

He had answered a callout received via Facebook from the ONE organization just two weeks before the Singapore date after Santos’ original opponent Vuyisile Colossa pulled out injured. Based at the Legacy Gym in Boracay, the Philippines, since 2013 – after a few years in Thailand – Kadestam leapt at the opportunity.

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It was Kadestam’s debut with the One organisation – the biggest of its kind in Asia – and he was up against a one-time ONE world welterweight title challenger whose record, at 37 years of age, stood at 63-9-1, one no contest across 16 years of fighting.

“I’d been following his career for a long time and am a really big fan of his,” says Kadestam. “I felt like I kind of knew his strengths and his weaknesses.”

The Swede wasn’t given much of a chance by MMA followers coming in, and the fight played to that script for much of the early exchanges, with Santos – notoriously a fast starter – coming out blazing and Kadestam hardly firing a shot in anger.

As they entered the third and final round, it was apparently to all – not least the man himself – that Kadestam would need a knockout. But Santos was visibly tiring, and a sloppy take-down attempt saw him hit the mat, and opportunity present itself to Kadestam. He drove in two knees and it was lights out for the Brazilian.

‘The Bandit’ strikes hard in his ONE debut!Check your local listings for global broadcast or watch live at oneppv.com.

Posted by ONE Championship on Friday, 26 May 2017

“At the end of the second round I felt like it was do or die,” says Kadestam. “At the end of the second round he was fading so I thought ‘Now it’s is my time’.”

And so thoughts turn to Askren.

At 16-0, the one-time American Olympic wrestler and college All-American has only ever really been tested in MMA by Santos – their title fight back in April 2015 ending when an errant Askren finger caught Santos in the eye at a stage in the bout when honors were about even.

Word that Kadestam was interested in a match-up was welcomed by Askren – “They’re always think they are ready … until they aren’t” he posted on Twitter Tuesday.

No matter, says the Swede.

“I’ll be training two or three times a day, and I’ll be waiting to hear news of my next fight,” he says. “I hope I can get to fight Askren and I know how good he is. I knew the opportunities that would come if I beat Santos. I will make the most of them.”