Ben Askren wants to get title ambitions back on track
Along with the perks of being universally recognized as one of the best welterweights in MMA today, former Bellator and ONE Championship titleholder Ben Askren has been able to travel to different parts of the globe.
The 35-year-old resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin has gone more than 108,000 kilometers, competing in countries such as the United States, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, China and the Philippines.
“I really enjoy traveling, especially my trips to Asia. It has been a pleasure for me to visit those countries and get to know their history. I always enjoy seeing new cultures and learning new things,” Askren said.
While Askren has toured all over the world, Singapore is the nation that continues to hold the warmest spot in his heart. ‘The Lion City’ has developed into a natural comfort zone for the highly-touted American wrestler and has become his home away from home.
“I have had a lot of fun in other places, Shanghai was great, and Dubai was great too. However, Singapore is the place I spent the most time in. I really enjoy Singapore a lot. It is fantastic,” he said.
Askren has fought three of his last nine bouts in Singapore, including what was supposed to be his retirement match against Shinya Aoki, whom he defeated by way of 57-second technical knockout in November 2017 to retain the ONE Championship welterweight title.
His rematch with Luis Santos in November 2015 was originally scheduled to be held in Singapore, but the fight was cancelled after the Brazilian failed to make weight.
Aside from the hospitality and food, Askren loves the safety and orderliness that Singapore has become famous for,
“I love how clean it is and I love how safe it is,” he explained. “I always tell people I could send my two-year-old out at night with money hanging off her shirt and she would come back safe and with all the money she left with,”
“Singapore is the safest place you can be and the cleanest place you will ever see in your life. Everyone is nice, and it is just a great place to be,” Askren added.
On Saturday Askren competes on Singaporean soil once again as he battles Brazilian submission specialist Demian Maia in the main event of UFC Fight Night 162. The five-round welterweight showdown takes place at the 12,000-capacity Singapore Indoor Stadium.
“I am pumped up to be back in Singapore this October. I’ve fought in the same venue before. Honestly, it feels like I have the hometown advantage because I’ve been there before. It’s an honor,” he stated.
Unlike in his previous visits to Singapore, Askren is no longer the unbeaten competitor who owned an unscathed record. He suffered an embarrassing, five-second knockout defeat at the hand of Jorge Masvidal this past July.
Masvidal’s quick win made the record as the fastest victory in UFC history, and not surprisingly for the outspoken Askren, the defeat still stings.
“I made one wrong move, and that has never happened before in my fighting career. But it cost me a shot at challenging for the welterweight title and it was kind of catastrophic,” he shared,
“But the UFC has a short memory, and if I can win my next few bouts, I’ll be back on track again. I’m treating this fight as seriously as I do for all my fights, especially since I’m back at a place where I’ve had lots of great wins,” Askren continued.
Askren expects to have his hands full against Maia, one of the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners in the sport who has 21 wins under the UFC banner and holds the second-most wins in the promotion.
“It’s going to be an interesting-but-tough fight. He has a good jiu-jitsu background. He is really good. My wrestling did wonders for me in my career, but he poses to be a big challenge on the mat. There is a need for me to bring my a-game in October,” he declared.
Despite the pressure to place himself back on the winning track, Askren is planning to deploy his trademark strategy of relentless world-class wrestling to seal the deal against Maia.
“I am in a very unique position right now. I’ve never been here, but it’s still a challenge, and as a fighter, I have to fight until the fight is done. I cannot get lackadaisical on him, and I cannot stop putting the pressure on because obviously, he is really tough,” he assured.