HE oddly neither likes basketball nor beer, but Ben 'Funky' Askren believes he can endear himself to Filipino sports fans with an explosive showing against Luis Santos in ONE Championship: Valor of Champions on April 24 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The ONE welterweight champion vowed to batter his veteran challenger in their title fight, in turn expecting to satisfy a Pinoy crowd that hates dull moments in any kind of bout.
“(Filipinos) like fighting a lot whether it’s boxing or cockfighting or spider-fighting … so I’m just going to go beat the guy up,” Askren said in a chat with scribes on Friday. “I’ll just put on a dominant performance and I think they’re going to appreciate that.”
“You can expect a butt-kicking from me,” added the 30-year-old American, who’s undefeated in 14 professional bouts and has won his last four fights by way of knockout or submission.
Askren takes his profession so seriously that he rarely enjoys a few beer bottles despite ironically living in Milwaukee, a city known for its breweries.
He also grew up loving wrestling and nurtured a career that saw him become an NCAA Division 1 All-American for University of Missouri and a member of the US Olympic team.
“I thought basketball was boring. I never really liked it that much,” admitted Askren, who has been wrestling since he was five years old. “And basketball and wrestling are in same season, time, so you can only do one out of two.”
Askren showcases his wrestling prowess against a grizzled opponent in Santos, who is five years older and has over 70 fights under his belt, toting an impressive 61-9-1 win-loss-draw card.
“Even though he’s had seventy fights, I feel I’ve had seventy-one with my unique skill set and what I can bring to the table,” boasted Askren, who transitioned into MMA only in 2009.
He has been flawless since his shift, but hasn’t seen action for eight months since he knocked out Nobutatsu Suzuki with a flurry of punches in ONE FC: Reign of Champions last August.
Askren, however, stressed he’s in tip-top shape.
“I’ve been training every day,” the blonde-haired fighter, looking fit three weeks ahead of the event, which also features the ONE debut of Filipino-American star Mark Striegl.
But Askren, the fifth-ranked fighter in his division by Fight! Magazine, insisted he has nothing left to prove.
“I feel like I’ve already proven everything I want to prove. I one-hundred percent think I’m the best welterweight in the world.
“But every time you step on the cage, it’s a new opportunity to show the skills that you’re built of,” he concluded.