Ben “Funky” Askren has been patiently waiting for a top contender to step up and present a formidable challenge. On Friday Night, 26 May, that wait comes to an end.
The undefeated ONE Welterweight World Champion will make his highly anticipated return at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, as he defends his title against unbeaten Malaysian challenger Agilan “The Alligator” Thani in the co-main event of ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES.
While Thani is excited for the opportunity, the champ expects that joyous feeling to fade for the Malaysian once the cage door closes.
“A lot of people have been excited to get their shot,” the 32-year-old begins. “But once they get into the cage and realize what they are really in for, their excitement level drops.”
Thani, who trains out of Kuala Lumpur’s Monarchy MMA, is a former MIMMA Welterweight Champion who holds a spotless 7-0 record.
Three of his wins have come by TKO and another four by rear-naked choke submission, including his most recent victory over Taiwan’s Jeff Huang at ONE: THRONE OF TIGERS in February.
Following that bout, “The Alligator” stood in the cage and pleaded for a title shot against Askren. He even vocalized his desire to fight the champ to the media, and now, with the request granted, he will attempt to become the first Malaysian to win a ONE World Championship following Ev Ting’s failed bid.
The 21-year-old’s strengths have always lain in his grappling, and he has put his BJJ purple belt to good use. He also has some heavy fists to go along with his relentless attack.
Askren could not any care less about his rival’s skills.
“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. If he cannot stop my wrestling, which he cannot, then he is going to be on his back, and he is going to get beaten up,” the champion says, confidently.
“Once they are on their back, they only have one choice, and that is to fight off their back. Usually, it is just not enough, and by usually, I mean it always is never enough.”
Legendary for his wrestling ability, Askren is a two-time NCAA Division I Champion and former Olympian in wrestling who made the transition into mixed martial arts in 2009. Success followed, and the “Funky” gladiator has been perfect in the sport thus far. He has amassed a bedazzling 15-0, 1 NC record, with four wins coming by TKO and another four coming by submission.
The Evolve MMA product captured the ONE Welterweight World Championship at ONE: REIGN OF CHAMPIONS in August 2014, when he delivered a first-round TKO to Nobutatsu Suzuki. He has been dominant ever since.
When Askren faces Thani at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES on Friday Night, 26 May, he plans to continue his reign at the top. In fact, he predicts to finish his Malaysian opponent in the “late first round via TKO stoppage by elbows.”
There is no mystery behind the American’s strategy. He plans to use his trump card, and utilize his world-class wrestling and grappling to guide him to victory.
“My fighting style has never been predicated on surprising people or keeping my game plan a secret. Ever since fight number one, I have told people exactly what I am going to be doing,” he explains with a chuckle, confident in his ability on the ground.
“I have been doing exactly the same thing since 2009, but the thing is, nobody has been able to stop it yet. So, I am going to keep saying what I do, and keep doing what I said I was going to do, and it is going to keep working, because [my opponents] are just not good enough to stop it.”