Since May 2014, ONE Championship Welterweight Champion Ben Askren has been fighting over seas. He has fought three times under the promotion’s banner and is about to fight for the fourth time on Friday, November 13 at ONE Championship: Pride of Lions.
Having fought twelve of his fifteen fights in front of American fans, one would think “Funky” would want to make the return home, however he seems to be very content staying outside of North America for the foreseeable future.
“It’s not a necessity, if it happened it’d be cool but if not I don’t think so,” Askren told MMASucka.com. “You know there’s not a great amount of, I don’t want to say national pride, but in fighting especially in the UFC and Bellator there’s so many Americans that people don’t get excited. Whereas over here in Asia in these smaller countries, whether it’s Singapore or Malaysia or Philippines. Listen, it could be this Filipino that’s 4-6 and he’s in the second fight on the card and the freaking entire audience will be going nuts. You know, there’s some serious national pride there and I don’t feel that way in America and it’s probably because it’s so prevalent and there’s so many good American fighters is most likely the story but I don’t feel that, so no I don’t feel the need to compete at home.”
Askren won his first mixed martial arts belt in October 2010 when he beat Lyman Good at Bellator 133 to earn 170-pound gold. The 31-year-old went on to defend that belt four times before signing with ONE — but that didn’t go without criticism.
Throughout his tenure with Bellator, Askren faced many critics who questioned his ability in the cage. Everyone knew he had the wrestling credentials, but was he really that good? With the top dogs in the UFC, fans and critics always asked that question. Could Ben Askren hang with UFC caliber fighters? That question doesn’t seem to get asked as much anymore, but Askren does like his chances against any 170-pounder in the UFC.
“Yeah I think a lot of people are curious cause they don’t know, but I’ve went with almost every one of the top guys I understand where I stand you know I’ve either practiced with them, sparred with them, grappled with them I know what they feel like,” said Askren. “I don’t personally wonder I know where I’m at. Now Mixed Martial Arts is a crazy sport right we wear 4-ounce gloves anything can happen, so you can never say without a shadow of doubt that you’re going to win every single fight but I like my chances in the UFC, that being said I don’t think it’s on the horizon.”
The Roufusport fighter will look to keep his undefeated record in tact in Singapore this weekend in a rematch against Luis Santos at ONE Championship 32.
The two battled at ONE Championship 26, but the fight didn’t go as planned. Santos found early success, but the outing only lasted two-minutes and nineteen-seconds before an eye-poke to Santos stopped the action. Askren felt his game plan would work out in the end, and that Santos took the easy way out.
“He had some success. It was short; it was less than ten percent of what a real fight is. The fight was scheduled for five, five-minute rounds; twenty-five minutes and it was two minutes and nineteen seconds. He had some success – landed a few kicks, stuffed some takedowns, but my game plan was to keep the pressure on, hard and heavy, fast because I heard he was a fast starter. With guys that are fast starters you want to put the pressure on them and give them as few opportunities and as little space as possible. I felt him already start to fade, within the short time we were fighting, so I thought my plan was going to workout the way I wanted it to work, but obviously it was prematurely ended by an unfortunate eye poke which I obviously think he played up a little more than necessary.
“You know that very few MMA fights end when there is an eye poke, a very small percentage and I did not poke him that bad.”
Santos has 72 professional fights, with a number of those fights happening in the United States. The Brazilian spends some of his time training at American Top Team, however he claimed that he couldn’t understand the referee when he asked if he wanted to continue or if he could see out of his eye. This was very frustrating for Askren, as it was clear that he wanted to continue.
“I could tell almost immediately, because his body language was leaning that way. If you watch the film, you can see me in there like ‘Hey come on, lets go, lets fight. This is ridiculous.’ The doctor is saying open your eye and he’s saying I don’t understand. What the hell else do you think the doctor wants you to do? He wants you to open your eye so he can see what’s wrong with you. Then the referee said do you want to continue and he continued to say I don’t understand. I mean come on bro, you have 80 fights, and someone at some point has asked you if you want to continue or not. It’s in every referee’s explanation of a fight. I was really annoyed by the whole situation. I don’t know what it was about him that he didn’t want to fight, but it’s pretty clear to any observer of the fight that he did not want to continue that fight.”
With the fight lasting less than half of a round, there wasn’t much Askren could take away from the fight. One thing he did notice though, was that he underestimated Santos’ takedown defense.
“I just needed to execute all my takedowns,” Askren stated. “I didn’t respect his takedown defense and also I was just a little over aggressive with the takedowns and should have just tightened him up a little bit. I think that’s really it because once I get on top it’s going to be a long hard night for him.”
You can catch Askren vs. Santos in the main event at ONE Championship 32 on Friday November, 13 from Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore.
North American fans can catch all the action live online, with the prelims kicking off at 3am PT/6am ET on Facebook and the main card airing at 4am PT/7am ET on ONE Championship website.
You can catch the entire Askren interview on this week’s episode of Sucka Radio here.