In 2014, Jarel Askew left a lot of his old life behind when he made a permanent 3,000-mile move. Askew, now 24-years-old, uprooted his life in Alaska to move to Sacramento, California to further his mixed martial arts (MMA) career.
It began in 2012 when Askew, one year into his career, began to train at Frostbite. A gym in Alaska affiliated with Team Alpha Male. In order to improve his wrestling–what he considered a weak aspect of his MMA game–Askew felt the best thing for him was to train at Team Alpha Male.
The gym is home to many great MMA fighters, both past and present. Urijah Faber, UFC Bantamweight Champion Cody Garbrandt, Chad Mendes, Danny Castillo (now a lead coach) and Cynthia Calvillo are just some fighters that call this gym home.
Jarel Askew’s Journey From Alaska to Team Alpha Male
Considering Askew wanted to improve his wrestling credentials, he chose a solid gym. The move did not come without some resistance from his parents, who were worried about their son. “I think I was 21 when I told my parents that, ‘You probably don’t approve of it, but I’m out. I’m moving to California by myself,’” Askew recounted to MMASucka. “My parents were like, ‘You’re crazy.’ I said, ‘No, I’m not, watch me,’” he said with a laugh.
When Askew left Alaska, he said he had been doing some construction work and had thoughts of joining the pipe-fitters’ union. The job entailed him working seven days a week for 12-14 hour shifts. “I had a good-paying job in Alaska, and I quit because I wasn’t happy,” he said. “What was the point of making all this money if I couldn’t do what I want? Even if I was broke, I’d still rather be broke fighting than making money doing [my job in Alaska].”
“I quit that job so I could fight more. Everyone told me I was stupid, because that was a big job in Alaska.” The Alaskan expat said that his parents came to accept their son’s wishes, but their worries were certainly reasonable. Askew encountered some turbulence with his new life in California at first.
“I quit that job so I could fight more. Everyone told me I was stupid, because that was a big job in Alaska.”
Askew recalled the difficult times where he’d lost a couple of apartments in Sacramento and had to search for a new house. When he was struggling to make it in California, he would scratch up enough money during a week to reward himself with a $6 half-off sushi roll. Eventually, Askew was able to improve his working situation when he secured a job as a security manager at the “two biggest nightclubs in town.”
Now, Askew has his own place and a job that not only pays well but also accommodates his professional MMA schedule. The days of saving up for sushi are behind him now. “Now I can finally eat,” Askew said with another laugh.
But for everything the young Alaskan has had to endure since his 3,000-mile journey, he said he wouldn’t have had it any other way. “It was definitely worth it. Without a doubt,” says the fighter.
“Now I can finally eat,” Askew said with another laugh.
Askew’s reward turned out to be top-of-the-line MMA training at Team Alpha Male. He said that Frostbite is a traditional jiu-jitsu gym, where he didn’t do much wrestling. Askew compared the quality of training he now receives at Alpha Male to what he received at Frostbite. “With all due respect to my old gym, the difference is night and day,” he said. “It’s the level of intensity they have out here [at Team Alpha Male]. You can’t find it anywhere else. I don’t think there’s anywhere else on the planet like this.”
Askew was quick to laud his old gym for helping him get his MMA career off the ground, and still trains there when he visits his former home in Alaska.
But now, Askew is looking to the future. The 10-4 fighter said he believes he’ll be in the UFC one day, but wants it to happen “at the right time.” Whether it’s through The Ultimate Fighter or a future edition of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, he thinks the call will come one day.
“Even when I fight in Alaska, I fight in Anchorage. I’m from Fairbanks,” he said. “They hate me.”
In the short-term, Askew has a championship bout coming up next week when he’ll travel to Hawaii to take on the native Zane Kamaka at a Destiny Na Koa event.
Kamaka owns a 9-3 record and has two title victories under his belt for the promotion, dating back to 2015. Kamaka is also a TUF veteran who appeared on Titan FC 35. “A win over him at this point would probably be the biggest win of my career,” Askew said.
Despite going into enemy territory, Askew said that’s a non-factor in the upcoming welterweight bout, as he has plenty of experience being the outsider. “Even when I fight in Alaska, I fight in Anchorage. I’m from Fairbanks,” he said. “They hate me. I have no hometown advantage whatsoever there. They do not like me down there. At all. Everyone comes out to see me lose.”
Even if Askew did not enter the fight with a wealth of experience battling it out in hostile territory, fighting one of Hawaii’s own hardly seems daunting when one considers what he has had to go through so far in his young career.