EXCLUSIVE | Ben Askren: ‘I’m OK in MMA, I’m not that good, but neither are the guys I’m beating’ | Fist-Ta-Cuff Radio
| This week BJPenn.com’s Fist-Ta-Cuff Radio invited Bellator Welterweight Champion, Ben Askren, onto the air to talk about all the things going on in Milwaukee with him and his team at Roufusport. Askren is a highly decorated wrestler and is currently holding an undefeated MMA record of 12-0 to back up his Bellator welterweight strap. Ben was kind enough to talk with our boys at Fist-Ta-Cuff Radio and give all the fans here at BJPenn.com the inside scoop on his background, his current contract, and his future in the sport. Here are some of the highlights from that interview:
Ben is coming off of a recent title defense victory over Andre Koreshkov and is now supporting his team in Milwaukee and helping them prepare for their upcoming fights. Ben stated, “We have a big two week’s coming up here at Roufusport. All of our guys are fighting at UFC 164 in Milwaukee. It’s going to be exciting.”
“I’m just helping the guys tune up their wrestling a little bit. I think the most important one is going to be Anthony. I think Benson Henderson is going to try to take him down, he knows he can’t beat him in the standup department, so we’re really preparing for that matchup.”
Anthony Pettis is lined up to take on Bensons Henderson for the UFC lightweight title in a couple weeks and Ben Askren talked about the strengths and talents of his teammate, Pettis.
“He is definitely good off of his back, he’s good with the arm-bars and triangles,” he Askren explained, “but his bread and butter is his standup. I think he’s got the best standup in MMA and the longer he can keep the fight there, the better for him.”
Ben has been absolutely dominant in almost every single one of his MMA fights. His grappling skills make it difficult for any of his opponents to get anything going. Askren was asked if he thought that his wrestling skills were the best in MMA. He replied,
“I definitely think that’s possibly a true statement. Credential-wise I’d say I’m probably top two or three. Joel Romero, who’s a World Champ from Cuba fighting in the UFC, and you have Daniel [Cormier], who made two Olympic teams; I only made one. I had a little more college success, so you could argue that one. But as far as MMA is concerned, I get more takedowns and stay on top more efficiently than anybody. I take a person down and they have no hope of getting back up until the round is over. So that’s something I do better than almost anybody.”
To date no fighter has been able to overcome the wrestling of Askren, but it didn’t happen overnight for the Bellator Champion. He’s been grappling for the majority of his life and owns one of the most dominant winning streaks in college wrestling history. Askren was asked to talk about that winning streak what factors played into it. He began, “I got on a roll my junior and senior year. My freshman and sophomore year I lost in the NCAA finals to the same person, Chris Pendleton, and my losses my sophomore year were all to him, so after that, you know, no one could really touch me after that. I went on a roll, 87 matches, mostly pins a tech falls. It was a really good two years for me.”
But that wasn’t the only streak Askren was riding during that time. He actually had a streak within his streak. He elaborated:
“I went on a streak and pinned 18 in a row in the first round and I don’t think anyone has ever been really close to that, ever. Yeah, I was on a streak. I mean, it’s not something you can really plan on putting together and it wasn’t like I was actually trying to pin people in the first period, it’s just things were flowing and they were happening. A few of those matches, you know, 3 minute first period, and I pinned a couple at like 2:54, 2:57, so a few of them were super close to going to the second period, but you know, it’s something you can’t plan, it’s something you can’t try to make happen, it just flowed.”
Following his collegiate wrestling career Ben Askren pursed his dreams of becoming an Olympian. He touched on a few of the differences he had to adjust to following his college training days where he relied on his coaches and teammates to push him.
“I was making my own workouts, I was planning stuff myself, so it takes a lot of discipline and a lot of effort to keep that rolling,” he said. But it wasn’t for nothing as he explained, “I really got better during those two years.”
Askren was then asked if his international wrestling experience helped prepare him for the traveling and training that comes along with MMA. He stated, “I took the MMA world and International Wrestling as worlds apart because in MMA they put you up in nice hotels, they give you a sweet per diem, you’re on TV, you’re doing lots of interviews, so it’s almost the opposite. When you’re going to Russia, you fly over there, you’re in a shitty place to stay, you’re eating shitty food, you know? And nothing is high class, but it’s ok because you know that’s what you gotta do and you know that’s what it’s gonna take and you accept that, and you’re fine with it. But I think those two worlds are way apart.”
He continued, “It’s good to never forget where you came from and know that you’ve been through that. It kind of keeps you humble. It keeps you down to earth.”
He was then asked to touch on his transition from wrestling to MMA and drive him to make that decision.
“In 2010 when I won the Bellator Tournament I was wrestling and fighting. I tried to make a comeback, I wanted to go back to wrestling in 2010, and then Bellator offered me the tournament,” he said. “I wrestled in the 2010 United Stated World Team Trials one week before the finale of the tournament where I beat Dan Hornbuckle. So I was doing both things there for a while.”
He then admitted, “I wasn’t even practicing MMA before the Dan Horbuckle fight, at all.”
“I could have kept wrestling. That’s the choice that I made.”
“I accomplished everything in wrestling that I could have ever dreamed of accomplishing as a young kid so I made a decision to do MMA. It was more of a career decision.”
Askren has now crossed over and made his name a recognizable one in MMA as well, sweeping through and winning the Bellator welterweight title. Although he has now transitioned into an MMA star Askren assured us that he would never sever his ties to wrestling.
“I’m still highly involved in wrestling,” he explained. “I’m in Wisconsin; I have two Askren Wrestling Academies that we run out here. I’m still very active in the camp scene. So I’m still highly involved with wrestling. I’ll always be involved with wrestling. I’m never going to get away from it.”
Ben was then asked what was sweeter and more of an accomplishment in his athletic career; his college wrestling winning streak and national titles or his run to the Bellator title. He replied,
“In Bellator I’m beating good fighters, but those aren’t the best fighters in the world. I’m not making any bones about it and I’m not going to lie to you and say that they are. And in my last years of college I was beating the best guys in folkstyle wrestling week in and week out without being challenged. I was beating them every single time.”
He humbly continued, “In MMA, dude, I’m ok in MMA. I’m not that good, it’s just that the other people aren’t that good at it either, so I end up winning.”
Askren is definitely good enough to compete in the UFC and he was asked if he ever thought about signing with the company following his Bellator contract expiration. He stated, “I guess I got some kind of tech negotiations coming up here, so we’ll find out what’s going to happen in the coming days and weeks.”
He was then asked what his ultimate goals in the sport are and how much longer he plans to continue fighting. He replied, “I always said that I would retire after I had a kid and my kid is 6 months old so I’m already past my due date.”
“I don’t want to fight for another five years. Like I said, I’ve been training year round for the last fifteen years. Um, I don’t know how much I have left in me.”
He then spilled out his ideal scenario, if he could have one. He stated,
“My ideal scenario would be to fight Georges St. Pierre, I’d get to see if I’m the best guy in the world, and that would probably be it. But is that realistically going to happen, I’m not sure what’s going to happen.”
We would like to thank Mr. Askren for taking the time out of his schedule to talk with our boys over at Fist-Ta-Cuff Radio and we look forward to watching him compete and continue to grow as a fighter.
To listen to the entire interview with Ben Askren on BJPenn.com’s Fist-Ta-Cuff Radio click here.