Ben Askren wants to make up for a regrettable 2015 in his Manila return

Ben Askren_Dojo Drifter_Mike Miguel

After two straight victories that include his inaugural championship win, “Funky” Ben Askren met disappointing roadblocks in 2015.

[mks_dropcap style=”square” size=”52″ bg_color=”#1588db” txt_color=”#ffffff”]B[/mks_dropcap]en Askren’s reign as the ONE welterweight champion was off to a bad start. He wants to make it right this time and leave a good impression in Manila.
 
 
His first title defense against Luis Santos back in April 2015 ended in a no-contest. During that fight, the Brazilian “Sapo” said he couldn’t continue after an inadvertent eye poke. The fans at the Mall of Asia arena were disappointed after the main event abruptly ended.

The Askren-Sapo scuffle grew worse when the rematch scheduled in Singapore the following November got scrapped on the day of the fight. A weigh-in fiasco involving an overweight Santos eventually led to both camps failing to reach an agreement.

Despite back-to-back setbacks, Askren remains positive and plans to restart on the right foot one year since his first fight in Manila. He’s now facing title challenger Nikolay Aleksakhin from Russia in ONE: Global Rivals.

“I’m excited because it’s really been more than a year. It’s not like I really got to have a fight last April against Sapo, you know?,” says Askren to Dojo Drifter in an exclusive interview. “It’s two minutes and the eye poke thing happened and he didn’t want to fight, so I mean realistically, it’s been more than a year since I fought and this is what I do, so yeah, it’s been a disappointing year that I haven’t got to get in the cage.”

He adds, “But I’m hoping this year, 2016’s gonna turn out a lot better than 2015 for me. Hopefully I’ll get in the cage April and get in the cage twice or more so hopefully I’ll fight three times this year.”

Ben Askren_Manila_Dojo Drifter_Mike Miguel
“Funky” Ben Askren talks to fans and media during his first visit in Manila.

After a long absence inside the cage, Askren thinks ring rust won’t be a concern as he continues to work on his craft at Roufusport Academy. He also puts in the time in his own gym at Askren Wrestling Academy to stay sharp. “Funky” believes that he is far better in every aspect of the game than Aleksakhin. The Russian Aleksakhin made his successful promotional debut with a third-round submission victory over Burenzorig Batmunkh last November.

“Mentally, it’s not an issue for me. I love to compete and there’s nothing that I enjoy more than putting all in the line so for me, there’s nothing that I have to get excited about. I’m already excited, I’ve been excited and you know, mentally, I’m ready to go. I’m always ready to go.” He mentions. [mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#1588db” txt_color=”#ffffff”]“I think I’m better, I think I’m a step ahead of every place we go.”[/mks_pullquote]When asked about what he thinks his opponent, a confident Ben Askren said, “He (Aleksakin) is tough, he’s good in all areas. He’s got a combat Sambo background and that being said, I just think I’m better everywhere. I think I can win anywhere I wanted to win in the fight. I’ve watched his last fight in ONE Championship and he’s good, but like I said, I think I’m better, I think I’m a step ahead of every place we go.”

Returning to Manila almost a year since the pair of misfortunate outcomes, Ben Askren is eager to pick up where he left off, aiming to defend his belt in convincing fashion to give the Filipino fans the fight they were deprived of in his first visit to the country. 

“Obviously that was an outcome that nobody wanted to that fight so I’m excited. I’m just gonna put a whooping on Nikolay Aleksakhin and hopefully Filipino fight fans would realize that they misjudged me in that first fight. That eye poke was far from intentional and it was Sapo’s choice to not continue, not mine.”

Mike Miguel

If there’s anything MMA related going down in the Philippines, Mike would know about it. With a knack for photography and social media, Mike never misses a beat.
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