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Ben Askren (18-0-0-1) is a welterweight fighter who was signed by the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2018. His next appearance will see him make his long-awaited promotional debut opposite Robbie Lawler at UFC 235, which takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on March 2.
As we approach the bout, here are five things that you might not know about the man they call “Funky.”
He has won gold twice beforeAskren is a former Bellator MMA welterweight champion. He claimed the title by besting Lyman Good by unanimous decision at Bellator 33 in October 2010. “Funky” would go on to defend the belt four times before departing Bellator and signing with the Singapore-based One Championship in late 2013. In only his second fight with the promotion, Askren won the welterweight strap when he defeated Nobutatsu Suzuki by first-round TKO in Aug. 2014. He later defended his belt on three occasions.
He was retiredAskren announced that he would be retiring prior to defeating Shinya Aoki at One Championship: Immortal Pursuit in November 2017. However, the 34 year-old stated that he might be tempted out of retirement if he got the chance to face all-time great, Georges St. Pierre or another top welterweight fighter that would prove he was the best in the world.
He had an outstanding wrestling careerPrior to embarking on his MMA journey, “Funky” was a top-tier wrestler. During his high school days at Arrowhead High School in Hartland, Wisconsin, he won two state championships. Askren continued to have success on the mat at the University of Missouri, where he compiled an impressive 153-8 record. His college accolades include two NCAA Division 1 National Championships and achieving NCAA Division 1 All-American status in four consecutive years. He also garnered a reputation for his remarkable pinning ability and holds the record for the most pins in a single NCAA season.
Post college, Askren qualified for the 2008 Olympics by defeating Tyrone Lewis in two matches. Competing in the 74 kg weight class, Askren emerged victorious from the first match of The Games via pin. In the round of eight, he lost to Cuba’s Ivan Fundora on points.
His signing with the UFC was part of a unique dealOn Nov. 3, 2018, it was announced that the Las-Vegas based promotion had signed Askren under a never-before-seen trade agreement between the UFC and One Championship. In exchange for receiving former UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, One permitted their ex-welterweight champ, still under contract with them, to move in the opposite direction. This was the first deal of its kind in MMA history.
He had an acrimonious relationship with Dana WhiteAskren previously clashed with combative UFC head honcho Dana White. This made it all the more surprising when it was announced that “Funky” was signed by the UFC.
The initial acrimony was a result of White not only claiming Askren was boring, but was fighting “nobodies” in Bellator and One Championship. As he was also under the impression that the former Olympian was getting paid a fortune to do so, White was adamant that Askren had no interest in fighting the sport’s elite. This did not go down well with Askren at the time, and in a recent interview, spoke of the pair’s past relationship.
“It’s whatever, though. What has happened in the past doesn’t just go away. …But listen, I’m here to fight people in the cage, not be anyone’s best friend.”