MMA UK interviews Bellator Weltweight Champion, Ben Askren

If you passed Ben Askren on the street, you wouldn’t think he was an MMA fighter or an Olympic level wrestler. The funny thing is, he could probaby take down any weltweight in MMA if he wanted to today. That’s one of the reasons why he is currently Bellator’s Weltweight Champion.

Askren took some time to talk to us over at MMA about his time in the Olympics, how he got into MMA and his love for BJJ.

 

Congratulations on the winning the Bellator Weltweight Championship Ben. How did it feel to finally become the champion?
It felt great to get the belt around my waist, but I am looking forward to bigger things.
 
 
Firstly, where did your nickname from?
It came from my style of wrestling in college, which was very unique and entertaining. 
 
Before, we get into your Mixed Martial Arts career, you have a pretty successful amateur wrestling background. When did you start wrestling and how did you get into it?
I got started when I was six years old. My dad got me started and I just really liked it and stuck with it. 
 
Your record as a wrestler is second to none. Although, you were dominant in most of your matches, what was the hardest wrestler you’ve ever had to deal with?
Well the one person who was a consistent thorn in my side was Chris Pendleton.  He beat me in the national finals when I was both a freshman and sophomore and also gave me 7 of my 8 losses in my college career. 


 
You went to Olympics, as a part of the US Freestyle wrestling team. How much of a change was it from being a collegiate wrestler to wrestling in the Olympics?
The only real change was stylistically, because the rules in freestyle are so much different I really had to change my style and strategy. 
 
You’re still a pretty young fighter, yet you’ve been around long enough to see the massive impact that MMA has had on popular culture. What was your first exposure to MMA and when did you decide to make it your career?

I remember watching UFC 1 and watching some guys talk about how he punched concrete and even at 8 I thought  he was an idiot because it couldnt possibly make him a better fighter.  I always liked watching it and decided to make it my career after the Olympics.

How did your family react to your decision?

Just like always. They let me make my own decisions and they supported them.

 

Before your career started, were there any Welterweight that you enjoyed watching and why?

I really like watching all fighting, but I don’t think there was anybody that stood out that far. 
 


You currently train at American Top Team and you’re also a Purple Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Did it feel weird learning BJJ, considering the fact you’d been wrestling your entire life?

I haven’t been at ATT for over a year, I train at The Den in Scottsdale, AZ.  No. learning BJJ didnt feel weird. I always liked BJJ and found it relatively easy to learn. 
 
What do you enjoy most about BJJ and how do you try to incorporate it into your wrestling game?

I really like it all, there is so much technique and strategy I love trying to learn it all.  I definitely incorporate some BJJ into my wrestling, some of the pummeling stuff on the mat and butterfly guard.
 
What area’s do you feel you need to strengthen as a fighter before your next fight?

Everywhere, there are so many things a great MMA fighter needs and I need to work on it all. 
 
A lot of pressure is put on undefeated fighters, especially those who are especially good at one aspect of the sport. How are you dealing with the pressure, especially now that you’re a champion?
No one puts more pressure on me than myself, I love pressure. 
 
As an Olympic wrestler, the base of your MMA skills is your wrestling. How do you feel about the entire “Lay and Pray” arguement?
People shouldn’t lay and pray. 
 
You’re in a unique situation as an outsider to the Georges St Pierre Vs Josh Koscheck fight. Both are Welteweights and great wrestler. As someone who could be considered a better wrestler than both St Pierre and Koscheck, how do you see the fight going?
I dont really know how this fight is going to go.  I think Josh has definitely started using all of his tools since the last time they fought so he should have a better chance in this fight. 
 
Any news on when your next fight will be and whom your next opponent will be?
Nope, no idea. 
 
Is it safe to say that you’ll continue to keep your afro until you lose. Do you consider it a lucky charm now?
No, I cut a mullet for halloween.
 
Thanks for your time Ben. Anyone you’d like to thank?
My gym The Den in Scottsdale and my sponsors Cage Hero and Everlast.

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