Zebaztian Kadestam is motivated to strive for success in the ONE Championship cage for his loyal and supportive family.
On Friday, 13 July, the Swedish martial artist is scheduled to face Malaysian hero Agilan “Alligator” Thani in the main event of ONE: PURSUIT OF POWER.
If “The Bandit” can emerge from the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, he is likely to find himself in line for a match for the ONE Welterweight World Title, but most importantly for him, it would put him in a position to provide for his loved ones.
“Family is everything. I do not have anything else but this,” he says.
“My path is inside the cage, but the day I make it big-time is the day I take care of my family. That means a lot to me, and that is my inspiration.
“When [my mother] saw that I was winning, she could see my drive, and she has been so supportive. Without my mother, I could not have done it. She has been supporting me from the beginning.”
However, things could have been very different for the 27-year-old.
As a teenager living in Uppsala, Sweden, he was twice sent to a youth detention centre as a result of his illegal activities. He stole, fought in the street, and even sold and used drugs.
“For my mother, it was a really bad time, because I did not have any contact with my dad,” he recalls.
“She had to look after my two siblings – my little sister and little brother – while I was away. Then I came back and messed up again, and had to go away again. It was a really tough time for her.
“My relationship with my father was non-existent at the time, and it was pretty bad with my mother, too. I was in a pretty dark place, so we lost our relationships.”
Fortunately, he found salvation after his second spell in detention through martial arts.
He learned about Brazilian jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts through a special programme at one of the youth centres. That added to the limited Muay Thai knowledge he acquired before he was sentenced. He learned technique and discipline, and then vowed to make it as a martial arts professional.
He was inspired to get his life back on track by pursuing his passion and becoming a world champion.
However, it was some time before he would make amends with his family. For the best part of a decade, Kadestam barely saw his parents. He travelled the world, living and training in Thailand and the Philippines – half a world away from them.
Eventually, he realised how much they meant to them, and how much he owed them after putting them through a turbulent few years in his youth.
“I think the change came through martial arts, and it came through a couple of years of finding myself,” he explains.
“It was not like – OK, I am doing this, I am focusing on martial arts, and then boom, we have a good relationship. The first couple of years was just me trying to find my path, and trying to do right for all the things I did wrong.
“That is when I realised just what family means. Even though I was living overseas at the time – I only saw my family maybe once a year, or every second year, for six or seven years – it was during that time that I realised what family means to me.”
Once they saw their son’s new path in life, and his dedication to achieving his goals, they came around, and now support him in everything he does – his dark days firmly behind him.
“The Bandit” is in a good place – both personally and professionally.
A victory this Friday will make him the top contender at welterweight once more, and give him the opportunity to make his folks more proud than ever.