ONE Championship welterweight champion Ben Askren (15-0-1) makes his long-awaited return to action at the Asian promotion’s Dynasty of Heroes event this weekend at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
‘Funky’ will enter the ONE cage after a 13-month absence looking to record his 16th professional win, but despite turning some heads at the prolonged period of inactivity, he has continued to hone his craft.
“I never take total time off but instead of working out 9 or 10 times a week, I might just workout 5 times in a week. I spent a lot of time last summer working with my wrestling academies before I started lightly training for my fight in August, as I was supposed to fight in December, but that got cancelled at the last-minute due to the unfortunate passing of the King of Thailand.
“It was incredibly frustrating because I’m essentially in the prime of my career, I have no injuries and I was ready to fight the entire time. When I first signed to ONE Championship I think my first 2 fights were 3 months apart so I like fighting often and it really bugs me when I can’t do that but hopefully, that won’t be the case this year as I want them to keep me very busy.”
The 32-year old was last seen in action at the promotions “Global Warrior’s” event which took place in April 2016. At that event, he earned a unanimous decision win over Russia’s Nikolay Aleksakhin but has since experienced one of the most frustrating periods of his career. The brunt of this frustration stems from a number of potential opponent’s apparent unwillingness to face him but it is something he has become accustomed to.
“In all honestly, I’m kind of used to being given the run around by opponents. Even in Bellator, it was great in the first tournament but once I won the title, a lot of my career has been spent waiting on people to get ready to fight me and that’s kind of the same thing at ONE. I’m constantly waiting for these guys to say yes which is incredibly frustrating.
“I was booked to fight Vitaly Bigdash who is the champion of the weight above me last December but the event was cancelled. When it came to re-book the fight he [Bigdash] had a change of opinion and he didn’t want to proceed with the fight.
“I also hope ONE Championship take the initiative to go out and sign more people if they only have a few welterweights that are actually going to challenge me and those guys are going to act like idiots, and say no, and make everyone’s life difficult then they need to get more options so those guys can’t do that.”
In Friday’s co-main event, Askren will face off against fellow undefeated prospect Agilan Thani (7-0) who has earned the reputation as one of Asia’s most exciting fighters, stopping all 7 of his opponents. But the Askren, who competed in 2008 Beijing Olympics, is in a bullish mood when talking about the potential threat his opponent poses.
“I don’t think he [Agilan] poses any kind of threat at all, I don’t think anyone poses a threat to me but maybe that’s my biased opinion. He does use a lot of takedowns, but if that’s his gameplan, it’s not going to work against me as I am a world-class wrestler, something I’ve been doing my whole life and it’s a style I implement a lot to good effect when I’m fighting. I just think I’m better than him everywhere.
“He said his doing a lot of rounds in preparation for me, which is a waste of his time, as I’m going to beat him up in one round so training for five rounds might just be a waste of his time. He might as well just let me kick his butt instead of spending all that time training for nothing.
“The only thing that could be dangerous to me in a fight is someone who has really, really strong knockout power and Agilan doesn’t have that so I’m not worried I’m just going to go out and execute my game plan.”
It has been reported in recent times that the Roufusport/Evolve MMA trained fighter intend on honouring the remaining 6-fights of his contract before bowing out from competitive mixed martial arts.
Although this news had shocked MMA fans across the globe early retirement was alway on the cards for the Hartland, Wisconsin native.
“I always said I would retire when I was 30 and I’m 32 now so obviously I’ve fought a little past when I wanted to. I’ve read a lot of sports biographies growing up and everyone has tried to do it for too long and father time is undefeated against every man.
“I’ve always said I don’t want to get to that downhill point in my career which I always thought was around the age of 30 but I don’t think I’ve hit that yet which is why I continue fighting but I know I don’t have a huge amount of time left. Everybody hits that downturn in their career and I want to be out of the game before I hit that.”