Ben Askren: A debut with many implications
by rick olivares
Bellator’s loss is ONE FC’s gain.
When Ben Askren meets Bakhtiyar Abbasov in the middle of the ONE FC cage during Honor and Glory on Friday night, the match will be one that will not only be watched across Southeast Asia and other parts but also in North America.
Askren, the former US Olympian and All-American seemed to be on the move from Bellator to the UFC when for some still unexplained reason the latter pulled out of negotiations thus paving the way to ONE FC.
Askren’s two-year contract signing as well as the recent announcement that former UFC champion Rich Franklin has taken residence in ONE FC have put the young MMA outfit on the top of search engines. No doubt, a lot of people will be watching – from Asia to the UFC and Bellator to even the American sports sites such as ESPN and Sports Illustrated.
However, Askren debunks any thought that he settled for whoever was left in the sweepstakes that left him hanging. “ONE FC is a growing organization they are already the biggest one in Asia by far and when it came down to it, they gave me the best offer and I saw the option to be a part of a great team so I took it,” he succinctly says. “It’s a win-win situation for me and for ONE FC.”
First though, he’ll have to defeat Azerbaijan’s Abbasov who sports an 11-2 record. The 28-year old fighter from the former Soviet state is riding a nine-match win streak. He forced five of his foes to submit and knocked out the other five. Whether the competition is lame or not the fact is Abbasov has serious knockout power.
Askren no doubt will have checked on his foe but he insists that following his game plan and not worrying about his unblemished record will win the day. “The most successful way to enter on a competition is to focus on the task at hand so you can win it,” said the curly-haired 29-year old out of Wisconsin. “You essentially go in like it’s zero-zero. The twelve wins don’t matter because they will not guarantee a win. I have to go out tomorrow and execute my game plan.”
The game plan thus far has taken him from the US NCAA to Beijing to Bellator and now, Asia. Not bad for a former wrestler. “MMA was something I wanted to give a try but I thought I needed to concentrate on college and the Olympics first. When that part of my life was over, I looked at it as my chance to try it. I said, I’d try it for a year and if I didn’t like it I’d go on to do something else. I’ve had success obviously so I’ve never stopped since.”
The immaculate record thus far has been helped by that strong wrestling base. “I believe that wrestling is the number one foundation for a successful MMA career,” emphasized Askren. “It has been proven over and over. Six of the eight champions in the UFC have a strong wrestling base. It’s not like they wrestle or learn wrestling for a year. It’s something they do for years on end. Wrestling is big in America and Europe so that helps.
Coupled with his knowledge of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – the results have been explosive.
“It gives me a huge advantage,” noted Askren. “I’ve put together pieces from wrestling and jiu jitsu on my own and that has helped me get to where I am at.”
“Now,” summed up Askren. “I’m at zero-zero. I have to go out on Friday night… and bring it.”
That’s not so bad because everyone will be watching. Bellator and UFC included.