Ben “Funky” Askren claimed that he was ready to show the world that he is one of the best mix martial artists when he steps into the cage to defend his ONE Welterweight World Champion title against Japanese grappler Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki at ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT, which takes place at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
In the main card of Friday’s fight night in Singapore, Askren will bring his perfect record of 17-0, 1 no contest, owning five submission victories and five knockout triumphs in his eight years as a MMA professional.
Meeting with former ONE lightweight World Champion Aoki, the American said “Shinya is a really good final opponent. Obviously, he is a legend of the sport, and he is a really big challenge on the ground, which is where I like to compete, personally. I am excited for this bout.”
Askren revealed that he did not think a match with Aoki was an option, considering the 34-year-old Tokyo native is an Evolve MMA teammate. However, Askren admitted that the more he thought about it, the more he loved the idea of sharing a martial arts platform with Aoki. “He is a grappler and has a great skill set that I respect, so I think it will be a great battle,” Askren quipped.
Askren is highly regarded for his outstanding wrestling background that earned him two NCAA Division I national championship trophies and the privilege to represent the United States at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Growing up in the midwestern United States, a region traditionally known as a hotbed for amateur wrestling, Askren was motivated by the spirit of competition and wanted to participate in a sport where he could be the master of his own fate.
However, the Japanese is not an easy opponent, as he has been widely regarded as the most dominant lightweight in Asia for the better part of the last decade as he has had 47 professional bouts and strutted his wares in various promotions.
In addition, Aoki proudly owns black belts in both judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and has won an astonishing 25 of his 39 matches via submission.
But Askren still believes he can defend his title by saying “I believe it more strongly than ever because I have proved it 17 times now, and I am pumped to prove it again”.
In the another fight in the same card, Japanese martial arts veteran Mei “VV” Yamaguchi is very eager to get her revenge and is ready to use her ground work skill when she meets Filipino Gina “Conviction” Iniong in women’s atomweight.
The two female fighters have different skills in MMA as Yamguchi has experience on the floor with a record of 16-10 and her opponent is standing boxer with 6-2.
This is the second meeting between the two after having already fought three years ago. Yamaguchi lost that fight with split decision to Iniong at PXC-Pacific Xtreme Combat in 2014. Yamaguchi admitted that she was able to study the previous outing and acknowledges her growth as a martial artist.
“Gina has a really good right hand she throws, and she is strong and physical. I am better with the ground game and improved more in my boxing skills compared to our previous match,” she observed.
“She competed against a good kickboxer recently, was controlling her opponent well on the ground, and was really aggressive. She looked like she won without taking much damage,” Yamaguchi added.
Yamaguchi is planning to make the most of her second chance against Iniong as her objective is to leave the Singapore Indoor Stadium with her hands raised in triumph and leave the decision out of the judges’ hands.