Wrestlers are renowned for making the transition into MMA better than most but few make it look as seamless as Bellator‘s welterweight champion Ben Askren. Since making his debut in 2009 he has racked up 10 straight wins to maintain a perfect professional record.
He recently returned to the US from a two week stint training at Evolve MMA in Singapore where he spoke about everything from his nickname to his hairstyle to his next fight for Bellator.
Why do they call you ‘funky’ is it because of your hairstyle?
I got my nickname funky because of my wrestling style in college, I did a lot of what they call ‘the funk’ and my team mates called me funky, I tried to get rid of it for a while but it just stuck. I have a unique appearance, I started growing my hair out when I was younger because a lot of the wrestlers have really short hair and it seemed to get people upset for no good reason just because I had long hair and I could whoop everyone’s ass so I just stuck with it and I had fun with it.
How much of an advantage do you think having such a strong wrestling background gives you in MMA?
When I’m fighting my wrestling background comes into play really strongly. I wrestled all my life I was an Olympian in 2008 and I’ve only been doing the other stuff for a few years so that Olympic wrestling background really comes into play very strongly.
I hear you are pretty good at Disc Golf too, can you tell me a bit about that?
Besides wrestling and MMA the other sport I really like is disc golf, not a lot of people in Asia have heard of it but it’s like frisbee golf and the discs are smaller than a frisbee, I took second in the US nationals so it’s something I excel at and I really like.
Why did you decide to come and train at Evolve MMA?
I came to Singapore because Evolve MMA has a very strong mixed martial arts program. They have some of the best Muay Thai fighters on the planet and a very strong Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai program and I also wanted to work with Heath Sims who was a US wrestling Olympian.
How are you finding it?
They really have the full package at Evolve MMA, anything you want you can find it here. The facilities are top notch, they went the extra mile that most MMA gyms don’t really grow. Evolve MMA has maybe the best coaching staff in the world and definitely the best coaching staff in Asia.
And what do you think of Singapore?
I have been in Singapore for two weeks, everyone is so nice and friendly here and it’s really really safe, there are parts of America I wouldn’t feel as comfortable walking around as I do in Singapore. The weather is a little too hot, if you’re sitting by the pool it’s nice but if you’re walking around it’s hot.
Are you surprised by how popular MMA is becoming in places like Singapore?
I think MMA in Asia is really growing, especially with One FC starting up and I think MMA is going to be a global sport in the future. Right now it’s really the US, Canada, Brazil and a few small countries but I think it’s really going to grow in the next 20 years and become a global sport.
When will you next be fighting and who will you be fighting against?
My next fight will be in September or October, I don’t know who I will be fighting but I should find out in the next month or so.
For more information about training trips to Evolve MMA visit: www.evolve-mma.com/classes/vacation-training.html
By: James Goyder