In a recent interview with USA Today Sports, ONE FC welterweight and former Bellator champion, Ben Askren, told reporters that he hopes he “can help ONE FC grow into a global power.”
But can he?
While Askren is notable for being one of only a handful of non-UFC fighters to make it into Sherdog’s top ten MMA rankings, he has also been repeatedly criticized for his “boring” wrestling-based fighting style. For example, two years ago, Dana White tweeted:
“When ambien can’t sleep it takes Ben Askren.The most boring fighter in MMA history.I would rather watch flys [expletive]. Ben makes Fitch look like Wanderlei Silva!!!”
And earlier this week, new UFC fighter, Patrick Cummins, favorably compared his style to Askren’s by saying:
“I’m not out there looking to grab an ankle and roll around and get all funky. That’s not my style of wrestling. My style of wrestling is explosive, in your face and I want to exploit the conditioning issue as much as possible.”
Some of Askren’s supporters might counter that similar criticisms have been leveled against Georges St-Pierre, who indisputably played a role in the UFC’s growth. However, it must also be remembered that St- Pierre only developed his “lay and pray” style later in his career. In fact, his nickname (“Rush”) comes from his early tendency to finish fighters quickly. Before his first successful title defense against Jon Fitch at UFC 87, St-Pierre finished twelve of his sixteen wins, and over half of those finishes happened in the first round.
Helping ONE rise to dominance in the MMA world might therefore require a radical change in the “Funky” one’s style. MMA fans in Asia might share their Western counterparts’ demands for more “exciting” fights – like the ones between Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez or Mark Hunt and Antonio Silva– and might have no patience for what many see as Askren’s sluggish techniques.
The twenty-nine-year-old Ben Askren was released from Bellator and rejected by the UFC before entering into a two-year, six-fight contract with ONE back in December of last year. He will face the winner of the upcoming fight between Nobutatsu Suzuki and Brock Larson. Winning the fight will earn him his second welterweight championship.
But will it show that Ben Askren can help ONE grow into a “global power”? Sadly, MMA fans won’t know until May.