When Tyler McGuire was signed by ONE Championship and immediately put into a fight against former title contender Luis ‘Sapo’ Santos, he had a feeling what was happening.

With Ben Askren traded away to the UFC, ONE needed a new welterweight champion and McGuire felt like he was potentially being groomed for a title shot. But he also knew nothing was being handed to him while facing a monster like Santos,

“I knew that if ONE was putting my feet to the fire right away against ‘Sapo’ then a title shot was probably coming next,” McGuire said ahead of his welterweight title fight at ONE: ‘Warrior’s Dream’. “I felt like they were seeing if I was ready for a title shot.”

If that was his test, McGuire passed with flying colors as he earned a unanimous decision victory and will now battle Zebaztian Kadestam for the vacant welterweight title this Saturday in Jakarta, Indonesia.

According to McGuire, who trains at the same camp as UFC veterans Michael Chiesa and Rick Story, he actually shared a locker room with Kadestam when they were fighting on the same card earlier this year.

Tremendous respect

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Zebaztian,” McGuire stated. “Him and I spent a lot of time together during fight week. I got to know him and I think he’s a great individual. He brings a lot to the sport. He’s one of the toughest son of a guns I’ve ever seen in my life. I know he’s going to show up to fight and that’s what I want.

I don’t want to fight somebody who’s just there for a paycheck. The fans are who allow us to be there and they don’t want to see that either. I want somebody across the cage who wants to be there and I know when he steps in that cage and it’s locked, he’s not just going to go away. The work that I put in is going to have to come out for me to get a victory.”

McGuire knows that the automatic assumption for this fight will be his attempts to take the action to the ground versus Kadestam looking to employ his world class striking attack. In fact, McGuire has heard some comments from his upcoming opponent that he’s not in much danger from the American so long as this fight stays standing.

Not to be underestimated

McGuire is never going to shy away from his grappling roots but he warns Kadestam not to underestimate his striking or he’ll be the one to pay,

“If you look at his interviews, he comes out and says that grapplers are his weakness but I know they learned a lot from the [Ben] Askren fight,” McGuire said about Kadestam. “That showed when he fought [Agilan] Thani, the guy is improving every single day. I don’t know to what level but I do think from an athletic standpoint, I’m going to give him more trouble than Thani did. I really think my striking is underrated.

“I think he said recently that I can’t really hurt him on the feet and we’ll see. I do work hard on my striking and I’m trying to be a complete martial artist. If the opening is there for a takedown, I’m going to take it but if not we’re going to stand there and strike. I do think from an athletic standpoint, I’ll give him more issues than he’s had with other fighters in the past.”

If the game plan he’s put together with his coaches comes to fruition, McGuire is confident that he’ll be leaving Jakarta with the ONE welterweight championship around his waist and that would officially validate him amongst the elite mixed martial artists on the planet,

“To me if I have that title, that immediately puts me in the conversation as one of the best in the world,” McGuire said. “You’ve got guys like Brandon Vera holding the heavyweight title. Aung La N Sang as the double champ and you’ve got guys in the lower weights, contenders like Shinya Aoki, you’ve got killers like Eddie Alvarez coming over and Demetrious Johnson. To be a ONE champion, means you are one of the world’s elite.”