ONE Championship’s debut in mainland China is going to be a little “Funky.” That’s because welterweight champion “Funky” Ben Askren is set to defend his title against Sweden’s Zebaztian Kadestam when the promotion debuts in Shanghai on September 2. The Asian fight powerhouse announced the news in a press release prior to Friday’s ONE Championship: Quest for Greatness in Kuala Lumpur.
Chatri Sityodtong, ONE Championship Chairman and CEO, is quoted in the release as saying “China is one of our biggest markets, and the focus has been to really bring the rich cultural history of martial arts in China to the forefront. It is a delight to finally announce our inaugural event in the beautiful city of Shanghai.”
He added that “with an exhilarating main event prepared for our fans in Shanghai, Ben Askren is ready to defend his ONE Welterweight World Championship against Swedish challenger Zebaztian Kadestam. The interesting clash of styles should provide fans a solid matchup.”
Askren (16–0 (1)) most recently defended his title against Agilan Thani at ONE Championship: Dynasty of Heroes in May. He has not fought more than once a year since 2014, however, due to a number of issues securing opponents. As a result, this will be his quickest turnaround in quite some time. The outspoken American wrestler had called for a champion vs. champion bout with middleweight king Vitaly Bigdash, but Bigdash was booked elsewhere by the promotion.
As a result, Askren now faces Kadestam (9-3), who upset heavy favorite Luis Santos at Dynasty of Heroes to earn himself a title shot. “The Bandit” is 2-2 in his last four, having traded wins and losses. In Askren, he’ll have the toughest test of his career.
Also on the card, Japan’s Tetsuya Yamada makes his return to ONE Championship at the event, to face China’s Narantungalag Jadambaa at featherweight. Chinese bantamweight Miao Li Tao, meanwhile, makes his promotional debut against Liu De Li Ri Ge Hu.
In a switch from the promotion’s usual naming convention, the event will simply be titled ONE Championship: Shanghai. The action goes down September 2 at the Shanghai Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai, China.