ONE “Pursuit of Power” Q&A with main event fighters

Dylan Bowker, MMATorch Contributor

Friday, July 13th marks the second foray into Kuala Lumpur for ONE Championship in 2018. Hometown warrior Agilan Thani tops the card against knockout artist Zebaztian Kadestam.

The ONE Super Series brand will also be spotlighted with several high level Muay Thai and Kickboxing bouts on the card. MMATorch’s Dylan Bowker was able to catch up with the main event participants ahead of ONE taking over Axiata Arena once more.

Agilan Thani

Dylan Bowker: Your upbringing was difficult on a number of levels but martial arts seemed to provide you some guidance and stability. Can you speak to the power of martial arts and how it can change lives for the better?

Agilan Thani: There are a lot of perceptions to a martial artist. Sometimes, it’s good. On the other hand, it’s negative. But I choose to be on the bright side of it. Martial arts isn’t just about fighting. It’s about giving back to the world that has given you life. I’m doing this for my people, and when I compete for my people, nothing is ever difficult.

As a martial artist, I want to use the platform that I am standing on to inspire people. Life isn’t just about what you achieve, it’s also what you inspire others to achieve. While it is very important to work on your own personal development, there are many underlying intangibles within the realm of success that extend far beyond your individual success.

DB: You’ve spent the bulk of your career with ONE Championship and have contended for their 170lb title………What are your thoughts on the organization’s rapid growth and your role within the promotion?

AT: The sport is gaining traction in Malaysia with no signs of stopping. In just a few years, the fan base in Malaysia has grown tremendously with gyms popping up all over the country offering classes in a myriad of martial arts styles.

The remarkable increasing popularity of martial arts in Malaysia has been supported tremendously with a host of successful promotions holding regular event such as ONE Championship. Malaysia’s Youth Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has demonstrated great support for the sport, even suggesting a registered martial arts association in Malaysia.

 DB: Last couple fights were at Middleweight. Why did a return to Welterweight make sense in this bout?

AT: Welterweight is the right division for me. I have an unfinished business in that division. I want to be the champion in my weight class. I am here to finish what I started.

DB: What’s your mindset as you head into a hometown, main event fight here?

AT: It feels great to be competing again in front of my country men. Every time I step outside the curtains and walk towards the cage, I feel the energy from the home crowd. Every roar from my countrymen gives me the adrenaline that I need for my match. It brings out the best in me.

This time, it is special. I am headlining my first event in ONE Championship.

DB: (You) Have fought catchweights as high as 194 lbs while maintaining runs at both Welterweight and Middleweight. Are you looking to continue hopping between classes or is there a specific division you see your long-term future being in?

AT: As they always say, never say never. I am open to possibilities. But right now, my focus is on the welterweight division.

DB: Both you and your opponent have eight finishes in your nine victories…how do you evaluate your opponent’s skillset overall?

AT: He is a dangerous striker. We are aware of that. Training camp is really doing well. As we reach the final leg of the training camp, we will be starting to channel our focus on the mental aspect. Aside from being physically prepared, we have to be mentally prepared as well.

I am training all aspects of the game to achieve my goal — to win against my opponent and be one step closer to getting back to a world title shot. I am not treating this match lightly.

DB: Where does a big win put you in the hierarchy of contenders for the ONE welterweight title?

AT: I want to beat the best guys. I just want to win and move forward. I just want to keep competing against the best so that I can win every match, and eventually get my way back to the title shot.

Zebaztian Kadestam

Dylan Bowker: Last bout was a losing title bid to Ben Askren…What did you learn from that loss that will benefit your future performances?

Zebaztian Kadestam: It was a tough loss. I believe in my heart that I stepped into the cage as a prepared fighter, but there are things that are beyond my control. Coming into this bout on Friday, I have a renewed confidence now. Surely, I am training hard. I am motivated to show the world that I am worthy to compete on an international stage like ONE Championship.

 DB: Third fight for ONE and have a top of the card spot…What are your thoughts on the organization’s rapid growth and your role within the promotion?

ZK: I couldn’t fathom not being with this organization. They treat athletes like modern-day Samurai. It’s a totally different vibe and mentality. They care about fighters. I believe their growth as a company says a lot about their vision and mission to elevate the sport. If you give the best treatment to your fighters, you will have a great output. Plus, it creates more opportunities for everyone on this side of the globe.”

DB: First fight of 2018…Any specific goals for the remainder of the year?

ZK: My focus is on this coming bout before anything else. After this, we can talk about what’s next for me. But yes, my plan is to keep myself active all throughout the year.

DB: What’s your mindset heading into a fight where your opponent gets to compete in their hometown?

ZK: I have dreams of really becoming a world champion in this wonderful sport someday, and I am coming and willing to work for it. I am no pushover. I am not someone’s footstool. The belt will soon be mine. The bigger the obstacle, the greater the glory. I am here to fulfill my destiny.

DB: Both you and your opponent have eight finishes in your nine victories…how do you evaluate your opponent’s skillset overall?

ZK: Nobody should write off any opponent. The same goes with me. My plan is to attack until the final bell rings. He is a talented and young guy. I assure him that it won’t be a walk in the park. It does not matter what my opponent’s strengths and weaknesses are because at the end of the day, I will fight until the end.

DB: Where does a big win put you in the hierarchy of contenders for the ONE welterweight title?

ZK: I see a clear road to the throne. There is no way to go but up. I want that gold.

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