Ben Askren is a former Bellator welterweight champion and two-time NCAA Division-1 champion who is well known in the United States for his achievements in the worlds of both wrestling and mixed martial arts (MMA), but this week, the 29 year old has been busy getting acquainted with Asian fight fans.
Ahead of his ONE FC: "Honor & Glory" fight against Bakhtiyar Abbasov on May 30, Askren embarked on a five city promotional tour which took in Manila on Monday, Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, Jakarta on Wednesday, Phnon Penh on Thursday and Singapore on Friday.
From telling the media in the Philippines that he would love to help mixed martial artists there to work on their wrestling, to talking about the possibility of potentially fighting in Cambodia, to discussing the importance of spending time training in Asia with newspapers in Indonesia, it’s been a busy week for the former Olympian.
The five city tour began at 11 a.m. local time with a wrestling demonstration and press conference at the Ultimate Fitness Gym in Manila and concluded on Friday lunchtime in Singapore, where he will be fighting in two weeks time, in front of a scrum of local media at Evolve MMA.
Askren was accompanied on the tour by fellow former U.S. Olympian and Evolve MMA head coach Heath Sims and the pair will now get down to the serious business of preparing for what they hope will be the 13th successive win of the American’s MMA career.
Abbasov is riding a nine fight winning streak and Askren had the following to say to the Jakarta Globe about his forthcoming opponent:
"I think he is tough, but I don’t think he has fought as good competition as I’ve fought. I’ve fought some really good guys."
He claims to be relishing the pressure to perform which comes with having such a prominent media profile.
"You got to embrace the pressure. I have the pressure for a reason. I'm undefeated and I know there's a target on my back and I want everybody to give me their best fight. I don't want easy fights," he told Solar Sports in the Philippines.
On the final day of the tour, Askren also revealed that he might retire from MMA once his two year, six fight deal with ONE FC is done
"I’m not looking past the six fights on my contract. I might end my career after ONE FC," he told Yahoo in Singapore.
Fight fans in some of the places Askren visited this week might not follow MMA outside of the UFC, ONE FC and smaller local promotions in their respective countries. However, after five days of making nonstop headlines across the region, anyone in Asia who wasn't aware of who "Funky" was or what he had achieved, definitely will be now.