By: Nick Portella
What’s good fight fans? Today I had the opportunity to sit down with wrestling phenom and undefeated MMA fighter Ben “Funky” Askren. Ben is sitting with an impressive 16-0 record while being the undisputed One Championship welterweight champion. Let’s have a seat with Ben and get to know him a bit better.
Nick: What does it mean (for you) to be a fighter?
Ben: The adrenaline of competing is what drives me the best. The competition provides motivation to achieve a goal, to demonstrate determination, creativity, and perseverance to overcome challenges; and to understand that hard work and commitment leads to a greater chance of success.
Life is full of situations where there are winners and losers. A sports game, getting a job, bidding on a contract, and not getting into the desired college to name a few. People need to learn how to cope with disappointment and to be able to genuinely appreciate the good fortune, talents, and abilities of the ‘winner’ and then look forward to the next opportunity to try again.
Competition teaches us to dig deep and find resources we never knew we had, provides us with the opportunity to think outside the box and explore other ways to succeed. The pressure to win or succeed can often inspire more imaginative thinking and inspires us to develop additional skills.
Nick: At what age did you begin to train martial arts?
Ben: I started wrestling at a very young age. Ever since I first trained wrestling I fell in love with it. Then I continued until college. I blossomed in that discipline. It is a very important sport that all people should learn.
Nick: What inspired you to pursue a career in MMA?
Ben: After my wrestling practice prior to my MMA career I would work on jiu-jitsu with Tyron Woodley. I got in there and just learned a few things. I definitely picked some things up from him. Whatever he had to offer, I took it. After wrestling, I figured I should get into it. I got a fight and just kept going.
Nick: While being a high-level wrestler winning national titles and being part of the Olympic team was the transition difficult getting into MMA?
Ben: If you’re going to ask a lot of the mixed martial artists they’re going to say that wrestling is the number one martial art to learn. It’s the number one discipline to learn because you can dictate whether you can have it on the ground or whether you can keep it standing.
In the culture of wrestling, you don’t ever find a successful wrestler being lazy. You will never find a successful wrestler just super talented because you have to back that talent up with work ethic and being smart.
Our wrestling culture has the mentality that if you’ve been taken down, you better get two or three takedowns back. To be a wrestler, you need to have the mind of a chess player, the grace of a ballerina, the balance of a gymnast, the explosiveness of an Olympic weightlifter, and the agility of a soccer player. Wrestling is a very multi-faceted sport.
Nick: Your nickname is Funky. Who gave it to you and why?
Ben: Obviously, I got it because of my hairstyle. My massive fro has been my signature during my NCAA days. If you see a wrestler with a fro and superb wrestling skills, you know it’s Ben Askren.
Nick: How long have you been with Rofusport? Evolve MMA?
Ben: I have been with Duke Roufus and the crew for almost a decade. Since I started my MMA run, they have been with me. Whenever I am in Asia, I train at Evolve MMA. I met some good and awesome guys down there. If not for ONE Championship, I would not cross paths with them. So I am thankful.
Nick: Do you find it difficult train between Rofusport and Evolve MMA considering travel times and distance or has it become normal to you at this point in your career?
Ben: I am so used to it. Roufusport is my first home, while Evolve MMA is my home away from home. I am happy to have both camps to support me in this journey. The sport of MMA is about individuals, but most of its highly-regarded world champions are forged in strong camps that bring in many great fighters.
In a very different atmosphere from boxing, MMA hardly sees any high-profile competitors building training camps around one man or woman as it often centered around a gym where several coaches work in conjunction with each other to train a stable of fighters of varying skills and weight classes. I am privileged to work with outstanding athletes and remarkable champions from all around the world.
Nick: I have seen interviews you have done in the past where you said you could impose your will if you got into the cage with Stephen Thompson. Does that opinion still hold true today? Why do you think it would be such an easy task for you?
Ben: I’d do whatever I wanted against him. Simple as that. I’d be able to withstand his striking and I think I would be able to impose my will.
Nick: The question I am sure you have heard a million times. Although you have trained together and are friends how would a fight between you and The Chosen One Tyron Woodley go?
Ben: I don’t like talking about that because he’s a good friend of mine and it would just create an awkward feeling. Well, I think I can make a strong argument. I’ve never been beaten.
Nick: May 26, 2017, at One Championship: Dynasty of Heroes you defend your title against a tough opponent in undefeated Agilan Thangalapani. You quickly ended the fight via first round submission. Prior to getting into the cage that evening did you see the fight ending the way it did and in such a quick fashion?
Ben: It does not matter what my opponent’s strengths and weaknesses are because, at the end of the day, I have got the trump card. No competitor in my division is at par with my wrestling. I want to be the best fighter in the world and that means being able to beat everybody who is the same level as me.
This is the scary truth: I will come across the cage, I will grab you, I will put you on your back, and I will punch you until you ask the referee to stop me from doing so.
I do tip my hat off to Agilan. He has an incredible backstory. He has overcome tremendous adversities that translated into his determination to be the best. That’s why he is at this level. His skill as a fighter is so impressive. He might be very well the future of this division. He can be a good champion someday.
Nick: You have been virtually unstoppable up to this point. What is next for you in the fight world?
Ben: I need a dance partner on August 18. If there is someone out there who is willing to step up and accept the challenge, I am just here waiting for you. I intend to make it big and busy this year.
Nick: Ben have you submitted to the takeover?
Ben: This is Ben “Funky” Askren and I have submitted to the takeover.
Ben would like to thank One Championship, his fans, and everyone in between for their support. He always comes out big for Asia so he would like fans to come out and support him in his upcoming fights.
span style=”font-weight: 400;”>I have to say I enjoyed talking with Ben. Confident words from a flawless champion. I hope that an opponent accepts the challenge for August. Signing off for TheMMATakeOver.com this is Nick Portella. @NickPortellaMMA