Askren has no worries fighting in non-title ONE FC debut
MANILA, Philippines – Even though a promised title tilt will not take place in his ONE Fighting Championship (ONE FC) debut, former Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren remains optimistic he will get a chance to battle for the belt in the near future.
Askren was originally penciled to challenge Nobutatsu Suzuki for the promotion’s welterweight strap, but the reigning 170-pound titlist is still recuperating from his grueling 5-round war against Brock Larson in the ONE FC: War of Nations headliner this past March.
“Injuries are part of the sport. I was out for 10 months, and I am excited to fight again. I just want to go in there and get my hands dirty,” he said in an interview with Rappler during his public workout at Ultimate Fitness Metrowalk in Pasig City on Monday.
Instead of waiting for a championship crack on the sidelines, Askren was booked to square off with Bakhtiyar Abbasov in the main event of ONE FC: Honor & Glory on May 30 at the 12,000-seater Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Abbasov (11-2) is currently riding high on a remarkable 9-fight winning streak and has won 10 of his 13 professional outings by stoppage.
Moreover, the 5-foot-10 combatant from Azerbaijan will drop down to the welterweight division for his initial ONE FC appearance.
“Seriously, I don’t know how tough he is, but I am ready. I’m not intimidated going against him or with his leverage in terms of stoppages because I am not scared of anybody,” Askren lauded.
On the other hand, Askren sports a notable mixed martial arts (MMA) record of 12-0 and is universally recognized as one of the best welterweights today.
The 4-time NCAA Division I All-American highlighted his prizefighting career in June 2010 when he won the Bellator season two welterweight tourney by outpointing Dan Hornbuckle.
As a reward for his tournament triumph, he locked horns with then-titleholder Lyman Good 4 months later at Bellator 33, where he outwrestled the Tiger Schulmann MMA representative in five rounds to capture the welterweight trinket.
“Funky” went on to defend the Bellator championship four times, thumping the likes of Jay Hieron, Douglas Lima, Karl Amoussou and Andrey Koreshkov before vacating the gold-plated belt in November of last year.
The 29-year-old grappler from Milwaukee, Wisconsin is confident that a decisive victory over Abbasov will solidify his status as the next challenger for Suzuki.
“Without a doubt, I will have a title shot sooner or later. I am ready to perform and pull out my A-game against Abbasov, and then I will work on Suzuki. I will fight him wherever he wants and whenever he is ready,” Askren pointed out.
Moving from west to east
Askren made headlines in the MMA world last December when he decided to ink a multi-fight deal with ONE FC, which guarantees him six bouts in two years.
After the announcement of his departure from Bellator MMA, Askren was expected to join the ranks of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
However, UFC president Dana White shocked everyone by proclaiming he was not interested to recruit Askren.
The UFC head honcho showed little interest in signing the longtime Bellator 170-pound king, citing a perceived lack of competition on Askren's résumé.
Askren believes the world’s premier MMA company will regret its act of repudiation because he will make sure to put all and sundry on notice in his first ONE FC tussle.
“Of course, UFC will regret it. I am excited to be in ONE FC. By far, it’s the largest and best promotion in Asia. I saw their last show in Manila, and it was packed. I said to myself that I want to be part of it,” he remarked.
Despite having a lucrative offer from World Series of Fighting, Askren disclosed that ONE FC became the more appealing product due to its implementation of dynamic fight rules.
Asia’s largest MMA organization uses the international rule-set which blends a combination of best combat practices from all over the globe, permitting soccer kicks, stomps to the body and legs, and knee-strikes to a standing or grounded opponent.
In the event that a bout goes the distance, it will go to a judges’ decision as the three cageside officials will score the bout in its entirety, not round-by-round.
“The knees on the ground are a huge advantage for me. The wrestling background allows me to control the fight. It puts me where I want to be. People perceive that it’s a disadvantage for a wrestler, but it’s a huge leverage for me,” Askren stated.
Aside from joining ONE FC, Askren will leave Roufusport Mixed Martial Arts Academy temporarily to train with the Singapore-based Evolve Fight Team.
The Evolve Fight Team is widely regarded as the most decorated professional combat squad in Asia with names such as ONE FC lightweight champion Shinya Aoki, Rafael Dos Añjos, Leandro Issa and Eddie Ng.
“I trained there a little bit in 2012 and eventually made connections. Now that most of my fights are happening in Asia, it makes sense to have a home here. I don’t want to come over with a couple of days left before the fight and deal with jetlags,” he stressed.
Even though he is heavily-criticized for his lay-and-pray fighting style inside the cage, Askren vows to keep his winning technique intact because it catapulted him to the pinnacle of success in the sport.
“I’m going to do what I have to do. I am Ben Askren, and that’s how I fight and will always going to fight. It’s a level of perspective. I’m going to do what I need to do,” he ended. – Rappler.com