With a One FC fight on the horizon, MMA superstar Ben Askren wants to move on from Bellator and UFC – and maybe settle a vengeance with Johny Hendricks
For someone who has only known victory in a mixed martial arts (MMA) cage, Ben Askren is rather pragmatic.
“No one’s gone that long in MMA undefeated so [defeat] is always a possibility,” the welterweight superstar told xinmsn at the end of his five-city media tour.
“MMA’s a crazy sport. A loss can happen like that (in a snap). You can be winning then ‘boom’, it’s over.
“I’m prepared for anything.”
Do not, however, be fooled that Askren, who has won 12 straight times, is conceding to fate.
“I don’t expect to lose. I expect to win whenever I step into the cage.”
Does each victory then, ironically, put more doubt into his mind, with losing all the more possible?
“No… every fight’s a new fight.”
One of the hottest names in the sport now, “Funky” Askren signed for One Fighting Championship (FC) back in December, instantly becoming arguably the biggest draw for the Singapore-based promotion.
He is set to make a main-event debut at 30 May’s Honor & Glory show at the Singapore Indoor Stadium against Bakhtiyar Abbasov (11-2), who is riding a nine-win streak and no pushover himself.
The event will be co-headlined by a Vincent Latoel-Eddie Ng lightweight bout, while locals who will feature are Radeem Rahman and Stephen Langdown.
“I don’t think any fight is really that easy right?” Askren said of his Azerbaijani opponent. He accepts that given his perfect record, matchmakers will not be kind on him.
Abbasov is a former sambo world champion, which Askren, ranked 7th in the world by Sherdog, admitted is very much the only thing he knows of him.
After becoming Bellator champion in 2010 and defending his title an impressive four times, Askren was sensationally released by boss Bjorn Rebney when contract negotiations broke down.
Expected to make a big-money move to the sport’s premier Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the plot took another twist when UFC president Dana White declared he was not interested in Askren.
Does he have anything to say to Rebney or White now?
“No, no. It’s the past. I’m looking forward.”
Preferring not to be drawn into the circumstances that pushed him east, the 29-year-old simply sees his move to Asia as a “continuation” of his so far unblemished career.
And that is a career that has even taken him to the 2008 Olympic Games, as a freestyle wrestler for Team USA.
He weighed in on whether the world’s fastest growing sport should be included in the Olympics someday.
“It will be hard because this is a combat sport, there’s a lot of injuries. I think you’re going to have a hard time to see a big promotion like One FC or someone like that let the Olympics use their fighters. If they get hurt and are out for a year, they can’t fight in their promotions.”
He added, “The other thing is the Olympics is a tournament format because they want a gold medal. You’re going to have four or five fights, and the Olympics is only two weeks long, and everyone’s getting hurt.”
But Askren brought up the example of pankration, a combat sport at the ancient Olympics.
“[It] is not MMA but is not super far away. It’s fairly similar. I can see that sometime in the future.”
To complement his One FC tenure, Askren joined Singapore’s Evolve MMA, arguably the most star-studded gym in Asia. He will continue to be based in Milwaukee with Roufusport but will complete his training camps at Evolve.
Although the media tour – spanning Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Phnom Penh and Singapore – “exhausted” him, Askren said he is “well prepared” for Abbasov – not least because he has not fought in 10 months.
That is why his future plans are far from messy.
“Go home. Tell me when I’m fighting again.”
Click on to find out who Askren’s dream opponent is
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