ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben “Funky” Askren would like nothing more than to return to the cage and do what he does best and that’s to get in, dominate, and get out. The 31-year old former NCAA Division I wrestler from Arizona has been out of competition for nearly a year, but the good news is, he’s about a month away from climbing back in.
Askren (14-0) will face Russia’s Nikolay Aleksakhin (17-3) in a five round welterweight bout for Askren’s title. The bout will headline ONE Championship’s first event in Manila this year, called ONE: GLOBAL RIVALS.
Last April 2015, Askren battled hulkish Brazilian foe Luis “Sapo” Santos to a No Contest ruling after Santos deemed himself unable to continue after an inadvertent eye poke. A highly-anticipated rematch was scheduled months later in Singapore, only to have Santos miss weight and the bout cancelled at the eleventh hour.
In the first bout, Santos used his indomitable size and strength to throw Askren around like a ragdoll, manhandling him like never before seen in his career. Inevitably however, Santos began to fade and it started to look like Askren was about to take over — and then the bout was cut short and the rest was history.
Since then, Santos has moved on for the time being, as he defeated Portuguese fighter Rafael Silva just last month in Jakarta, leaving Askren to deal with Aleksakhin.
Though Askren and Santos are still expected to cross paths sometime in the near future, Askren will have to successfully defend his belt against his Russian adversary to set the stage for the Santos rematch.
For his part, Aleksakhin is certainly no pushover, having won his last six bouts while notching three technical knockouts and a submission win to his credit.
He’s competed largely in his native country for most of his career, but last November, Aleksakhin debuted for ONE Championship with an impressive third-round rear naked choke of Mongolia’s Burenzorig Batmunkh. He’s expected to give Askren a stern challenge at the very least.
Askren is an All-American and collegiate wrestling legend. In just a few fights in ONE, Askren was able to seize the ONE Welterweight World Championship with a resounding technical knockout victory over Nobutatsu Suzuki in 2014.
The highly-skilled Askren is also widely considered to be the absolute best in his division and one of the best fighters in the world pound-for-pound.
Whether or not there are enough welterweight fighters out there like Aleksakhin and Santos to provide the American with a steady stream of worthy challengers remains to be seen.
For now, Askren is content with making that trip halfway across the world to Asia from his home in Phoenix twice a year to show fans what a world-ranked athlete looks like.
If he defeats Aleksakhin like he is supposed to, expect talks of another Askren-Santos bout shortly after.
Askren, Aleksakhin ready to put on a show
Fans in the Philippines will witness all the action live as ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben “Funky” Askren returns to defend his title against hard-charging Russian opponent Nikolay Aleksakhin.
Former NCAA Division I All-American, Ben Askren is a collegiate wrestling legend and one of the finest mixed martial artists in the world today. In just a few fights in ONE, Askren was able to seize the ONE Welterweight World Championship with a resounding technical knockout victory over Nobutatsu Suzuki. The highly-skilled Askren is widely considered to be the absolute best in his division and one of the best fighters in the world pound for pound. His next challenge is a tough one, as he goes head-to-head with Russia’s Nikolay Aleksakhin.
Veteran welterweight from Russia, Nikolay Aleksakhin will make his highly-anticipated return to the ONE Championship cage in Manila this April. Aleksakhin was impressive in his debut for the promotion when he submitted Burenzorig Batmunkh with a rear naked choke within three rounds. Now, Aleksakhin gets the call to face ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben Askren and will look to surprise the crowd with intense action.
ONE Welterweight World Champion, Ben Askren stated:
“When I’m in Asia for ONE Championship I am one of the few American fighters. I definitely feel a responsibility to represent America well because there are not a lot of other American fighters in ONE.”
“I owe the Filipino fans. The last time I was in Manila obviously the bout didn’t have the outcome anyone wanted and my opponent was a lot less than courageous in faking his eye injury. The Filipino fans were unfairly robbed of a good fight. They lost the main event that night. I have to do an extra dominant job on April 15th to make sure the Filipino fans get a fight made up to them that they lost out on last year.”
“You can look in my eyes, I’m honestly 100% not concerned about anything Nikolay [Aleksakhin] brings to the table. He’s not an elite striker. I face strikers who are twice as good as him on a daily basis at practice. He is not as good of a wrestler as me. Hell, I’ll let him take me down! He can take me down all he wants because once we get on the ground he’s in my world.”
Challenger, Nikolay Aleksakhin stated:
“It was an honour to train with [Fedor Emelianenko]. He is a role model for me. I understood how much work coaches invested into him and I wanted to get that knowledge. I used to watch his fights when a child and wanted to be like him. He has many qualities of a real man, not just a fighter.”
“Wrestling is [Ben Askren’s] one and only strength, he is a boring fighter to watch. He has a very weak striking technique, I would like to play on that. I am a showman, I like exciting fighters and want to win beautifully.”
“It is the most important fight in my career, so far. To win against Ben Askren means to move a level up and to demonstrate it to the whole world.”
Askren and Aleksakhin are scheduled for a 5-round welterweight contest at ONE: GLOBAL RIVALS which takes place at the state-of-the-art Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, Philippines. The bout will be for the ONE Welterweight World Championship.