Given the tenuous nature of retirements in mixed martial arts, it's hard to say if Ben Askren's next fight will truly be his last but if it is, the “Funky” one will close out his fighting career against a Japanese legend.
In what is billed as his retirement bout, Askren will defend his One Championship 185-pound title against former One titlist Shinya Aoki in the co-feature of the promotion's “Immortal Pursuit,” scheduled for Nov. 24 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore. In the event's other main event, One's undefeated 115-pound queen Angela Lee will defend her title against Japanese veteran Mei Yamaguchi in a rematch of one of 2016's best fights.
One Championship officially announced the headliners and full card for “Immortal Pursuit” on Monday.
Askren, 33, is one of the best American collegiate wrestlers ever, having been a four-time Division I All-American, two-time national champion and twice a Dan Hodge Trophy winner. After his collegiate career and representing the United States in freestyle wrestling at the 2008 Olympic Games, Askren transitioned to MMA in February 2009 and has gone 17-0 (1 NC) in his fighting tenure, winning the Bellator MMA welterweight title before signing with One Championship in December 2013.
Askren last fought in September, punching out Zebaztian Kadestam in the second round to retain his One title. He announced shortly afterward that he thought his next MMA bout would be his last.
The 34-year-old Aoki hasn't competed in MMA since dropping his 170-pound “lightweight” title to Eduard Folayang via third-round knockout last November. The “Tobikan Judan” did step into the One cage this past May however, losing a grappling match to recent One signing Garry Tonon via heel hook.
Lee earned the One 115-pound title in May 2016 with a thrilling five-round decision over Yamaguchi in a legitimate “Fight of the Year” contender. The 21-year-old prospect has continued to emerge as one of the top young women in the game, following up with two impressive title defenses in 2017, stopping two previously unbeaten fighters in Jenny Huang and Istela Nunes.
Yamaguchi, 34, has faced the same recent opposition as Lee, interestingly enough. “V.V” was defeated via unanimous decision by Brazil's Nunes last August, but returned to One in June, choking out Huang to earn another crack at “Unstoppable” Lee.
One also announced the following bouts for “Immortal Pursuit” on Monday: Ultimate Fighting Championship vet Leandro Issa will face Andrew Leone; Singapore's Amir Khan faces rugged Australian-based vet Adrian Pang; China's Li Kai Wen squares off with Oakistan's Ahmed Mujtaba; 1992 Olympian May Ooi does battle with Vy Srey Khouch; Arnaud Lepont will take on Richard Corminal; Yang Fei encounters Waqar Umar; Tiffany Teo looks to remain unbeaten against Pooja Tomar; and Miao Li Tao tangles with Sim Bunsrun.