Ben Askren has never experienced anything like this in his life.
Not only is he fighting outside of the United States for the first time in his career, but he has also been whisked to four other Asian cities on a promotional tour before even settling down in Singapore, where he will finish his training camp at Evolve MMA.
It's a hectic schedule but the undefeated former Bellator welterweight champion says that the response he received from both media and fans made it all worthwhile.
"I've never done anything like this before any of my other fights. The most I have ever had to do was a one-day press event and the ONE FC press tour was a lot of work, but I definitely feel that it was worth the effort by the response I got."
Being a two-time NCAA Division-1 champion and U.S. Olympian he is already a household name in wrestling circles and there are many MMA fans who believe Askren to be the best welterweight in the world. But having never previously fought outside Asia, he was not expecting to have a fan base here,
"I was very surprised by how much attention there was for the PR tour. Coming this far I did not know what to expect but every single gym I went to was packed with media and fans alike," he told MMAmania.com.
While sending Askren all over Asia might have been the best way for ONE FC to sell its forthcoming show at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on May 30, which the American will headline, it was not exactly ideal preparation for the fighter himself, but apparently the hectic schedule did have some advantages.
"I had to do a press tour from the first day I was here, so I did not have any choice but to acclimate right away, jet lag simply wasn't an option and I have not felt jet lagged at all."
Now that the tour has finished, Askren is staying out of the spotlight for a few weeks to focus on finishing his training camp at Evolve MMA, where he is among four fighters who will be on the card at ONE FC: "Honor & Glory."
"I have been working a lot with Eddie Ng and Leandro Ataides. Both are very good MMA fighters and I have been getting really good training with them, the awesome thing about Evolve MMA is that there are so many trainers here who are Muay Thai champions and I have been learning heaps from them," he said.
However, anyone expecting one of MMA's most accomplished wrestlers to suddenly turn into a striking specialist who will try to keep fights standing is in for a disappointment.
"I have roughly the same game plan going into every fight. I like to know if my opponents have any dangerous weapons that I should watch out for, but besides that, once we get in the cage it is my time!"
Askren owns his own wrestling academy in the U.S. and still competes occasionally in the sport which he made his name in. While he is working on every aspect of his MMA game, the 29 year old is never going to turn his back on the style which made him famous and says he is looking forward to showcasing his skill set to Asian fight fans.
"It is very important to me to be an ambassador for wrestling. I think everyone in the U.S. has realized how dominant a martial art wrestling is and now it is my job to show the Asian fans," he said.
Askren is known for his ability to dominate opponents and one remarkable statistic from his most recent fight, against Andrey Koreshkov at Bellator 97 last year, is that he outstruck the previously undefeated Russian by a margin of 248-3.
That was Askren's second stoppage win in succession and it is a run which he is determined to continue having signed with ONE FC.
"It's very important to me to finish opponents. Early in my career I struggled with this because I didn't have the weapons necessary to finish the fights, but once I developed more punching power, I have had no trouble stopping the fights."
That could be bad news for Bakhtat Abbasov, who he faces at ONE FC: "Honor & Glory," but while Askren has been showcasing his ground and pound in recent outings he is also a high level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt who is confident that if he can't stop the Azerbaijani with strikes, he will catch him with a submission"
"We have been training twice a day at Evolve MMA and they keep the rotation switched up between MMA, BJJ and Muay Thai. There are some very strong BJJ black belts here like Leandro Ataides and I have been rolling with him and he has shown me a few tricks. If the submission is there, I am going to take it," he said.
This will be Askren's first time fighting in Asia as part of the lucrative two-year, six fight deal he signed with ONE FC, but it won't be hist first time training in Singapore and the American is hoping he will get a good reception from the fans.
"I am kind of viewing Singapore as a second home because I have been here to visit Evolve MMA in the past and I will be training regularly at Evolve MMA in the future so I really hope the Singapore fans will adopt me and get crazy for me on fight night."
With so much buzz surrounding his ONE FC debut, Askren is already on track to be a star in Asia but he feels he has it all to prove and wants to put in the sort of performance at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on May 30, which people will be talking about for a long time to come,
"I don't know that I am a star here yet, but I hope to develop into one after the ONE FC fans see my fighting style!"