Ben Askren has been on quite the roll.
Though “Funky” has yet to suffer a defeat in 11 pro outings and has undoubtedly asserted himself as Bellator’s top welterweight, the champion nevertheless believes he still has much to work on ahead of Wednesday’s Bellator 97 title defense against Andrey Koreshkov at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, N.M.
“You can always improve on everything, especially in mixed martial arts. There are infinite possibilities of ways to improve,” Askren recently told Sherdog.com. “I’ve got a lot more power in my ground-and-pound, which was really evident in my last fight. Takedowns and cardio were strong as usual. I’m just going to continue to grind people out and beat them up.”
Askren’s last performance was arguably his most impressive, as he grounded and punished explosive Frenchman Karl Amoussou to retain his belt this past January at Bellator 86.
“People who are elite competitors don’t let their opponents affect them the slightest bit,” said Askren. “I went in there for one reason: to take him down and beat him up. Regardless of what he does, physical or mental, it’s not going to affect me. I told Karl, “I’m going to take you down and beat your ass,” and I took him down and beat his ass. I did what I said I was going to do.”
The Amoussou victory marked Askren’s first stoppage win since his 2010 Bellator debut and followed a one-sided decision victory over Douglas Lima, in which Askren showed flashes of the violence that was to be inflicted upon the “Psycho.”
“The mentality hasn’t changed at all. I’m just getting better at what I do,” said Askren. “This is my fourth year in the sport of mixed martial arts, so it’s not like I’m an expert or anything yet. I know I still have a long way to go to be a complete mixed martial artist, but I’m getting a lot better at what you are supposed to do, which is finish the fights.”
In spite of receiving past criticism for implementing his grinding top game, the former NCAA wrestling champion said that none of the talk has served as motivation. According to the welterweight king, his finish of Amoussou was simply the result of his natural progression of improvement.
“People are going to think what they want, but it’s never going to affect me,” said Askren. “They’re just fans. It’s not like it’s my coach. If my coach says something, I’m going to listen to my coach, right? But they’re fans, so who cares what they think? I’m doing my thing and getting better. I never let what people say affect me in the least bit.”
In Koreshkov, Askren faces another unbeaten talent who has finished 11 of his 13 career opponents. Despite the Russian’s considerable striking talents, however, Askren believes the Season 7 tournament winner will not provide as stiff a test as his last two foes.
“[It’s an] even easier [matchup]. Koreshkov doesn’t have s--t for grappling,” said Askren. “At least Amoussou was a black belt in judo and Lima was a brown belt in jiu-jitsu. At least they had that. [Koreshkov] is terrible on the ground. I think he brings less to the table.”