As the ink from Roberto Soldic’s signature dried on his ONE Championship contract, the Croatian’s promotional debut was anticipated with high expectations.

Unfortunately, fate would not have his inaugural performance play out in the fashion combat sports fans had come to expect at ONE Fight Night 5 last December.

Instead, Murad Ramazanov landed an accidental groin strike that rendered the man known as “Robocop” unable to continue, ruling the bout a no contest.

Soldic will get a second chance to make a first impression when he returns at ONE Fight Night 10: Johnson vs. Moraes III in Denver, Colorado, on Friday, May 5. He will square off against former ONE welterweight world champion Zebaztian Kadestam in what’s bound to be a scintillating slugfest.

Looking back on December’s disappointment, the former two-division KSW champion feels that his game plan was beginning to fall into place against the undefeated Russian grappler. That was, however, until the low blow stopped him in his tracks.

“The knee was brutal because we were still fresh. He took me down in the first 10-20 seconds, I got up, and I felt that he was going to keep pushing. I knew he would lose a little energy, which was my game,” Soldic said.

“Everything was perfect until that hit. The groin strike was really tough on me, and I used a foam cup. I am really professional, but I used this foam cup for 10 years. I never thought that when I go to the Philippines, that was going to happen to me. I was ready for everything. But man, he just threw that knee, and I fell down.”

Now, months removed from that unfortunate incident, the 28-year-old is looking ahead to the organization’s historic first card on U.S. soil, and Soldic’s excitement is shared by his opposition.

Kadestam believes the encounter with “Robocop” will be the best fight in all of ONE welterweight history, with many other athletes and fans sharing the same sentiment.

Having reached the pinnacle in Europe, Soldic is relishing the moniker of being a promotional newcomer. However, he plans to keep his enthusiasm in check when he stands toe-to-toe with his Swedish adversary.

By doing so, the Croatian will be ready to capitalize on any holes Kadestam may present.

“He’s confident. I understand this. This is a good chance for him. Before, I also fought guys who were motivated to defeat me. But maybe it will keep his confidence so high that he will make mistakes,” Soldic offered.

“You cannot organize everything in the cage because of the adrenaline, and a fight is a fight. Training is something different. But it’s good that he said that. I said before that he is confident, and we will see.”

Their welterweight slugfest is bound to affect who challenges for the divisional gold next, and that prospect excites Soldic greatly. Should the knockout artist dispatch Kadestam in such strong fashion, he knows he’ll find himself firmly in world title contention.

“I aim to be a champion in ONE badly,” the Croatian said.

“I’ll try to take this belt, and then we will see. This is really a big thing for me, and I will try to finish, as always.”