Ben “Funky” Askren owns a perfect professional record. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Ben Askren in November parted ways with the Bellator MMA organization and became an unrestricted free agent. Although there was a considerable amount of talk regarding the potential of his signing with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the onetime Olympic wrestler, undefeated welterweight and former Bellator champion agreed to terms with One Fighting Championship, the most prominent mixed martial arts promotion in Asia.
Askren will make his promotional debut at One FC 16 “Honor and Glory” on Friday, when he meets Bakhtiyar Abbasov in the main event at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore. The 29-year-old American recently took part in a five-city publicity tour during which he was warmly received.
“The whole media tour had a great response,” Askren said. “Every stop I made, there was a crazy amount of press. The whole tour was a lot of fun and a great experience, and the fans in Asia are just awesome.”
Askren became acquainted with One FC in 2012, when he spent time training with the Evolve MMA camp in Singapore. While he was there, he forged connections with various trainers, including Evolve wrestling coach Heath Sims, another Olympian. Askren, who operates out of Roufusport in Milwaukee, now considers Evolve MMA a second home.
“Being that my fights are in Asia, it seemed a natural fit,” he said. “Milwaukee is a great place to train, but it is also nice to have a home base in Asia with a great team like the Evolve Fight Team, whom I feel really comfortable with. I’m still residing in the U.S., but I’m here to finish my last few weeks of training camp with the world champions at Evolve MMA. I’m loving Singapore so far, and I feel really good here.”
As a member of Evolve MMA, Askren also serves as one of the wrestling instructors. In addition to top-notch wrestling coaches, the camp boasts more than a dozen world champion trainers in muay Thai, boxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. While Askren has been labeled a one-dimensional fighter by his critics, he has become an indisputable master of that dimension. He believes his work overseas will result in further development to other areas of his game.
“My standup is really coming along,” Askren said. “We have been using a lot of muay Thai clinch work. It is a natural fit for me, since I am so used to putting my hands on people in wrestling.”
Although One FC is based in Asia, it prides itself on recruiting fighters from around the globe. Azerbaijani export Abbasov will serve as Askren’s first opponent. The twice-beaten Cage Warriors Fighting Championship alum will enter the match on a streak of nine straight wins. If Askren succeeds in his One FC debut, he will earn a title shot against reigning welterweight champion Nobutatsu Suzuki. For now, his sights remained fixed on Abbasov.
“I know Abbasov is a very tough opponent, but I am more than ready for this fight,” Askren said. “I have not been able to fight in 10 months, so I am really ready to get back in the cage and fight again. I am not concerned about losing. I’m just ready to dominate.”