Ben Askren ‘happy’ to fight fellow One Championship star Aung La Nsang after dominant win over Zebaztian Kadestam
The American says he’s never said no to a fight as he shifts his focus to his next bout
One Championship’s world welterweight champion Ben “Funky” Askren raised the possibility of a super fight with the organisation’s middleweight title holder Aung La Nsang after demolishing another pretender to his throne on Saturday night.
Sweden’s Zebaztian Kadestam was simply no match for Askren in their bout at the Shanghai Oriental Sports Centre, overpowered from the opening bell and, most likely, overawed also by the prospect of facing one of the most dominate fighters currently in action in mixed martial arts.
The victory – with the referee stopping the bout four minutes and nine seconds into the second round – moved the 33-year-old American to an all-time 17-0 record in the sport and followed a similarly destructive display against rising Malaysian star Agilan Thani in May. That bout lasted just 2:20 into the first round.
“I didn’t get touched so I am ready to jump right back in there,” said an unblemished Askren after his bout. “If Aung Na wanted to fight, I’d be happy to go with that. But I don’t care. I’m the champion and I’ve never ever said no to a fight. So, come on.”
While fans might salivate at the prospect after the Burmese fighter captured his nation’s first world MMA title back in May, One management are most likely to baulk at casting Nsang (20-10) against Askren so soon, given the fact the sport – and One promotions – are still at the developmental stages in Myanmar.
Maybe a more sensible move would be to pit Askren against the man Nsang deposed as middleweight champ – Russian Vitaly Bigdash (9-1), whose loss was his first. But then issues of weight would come into play.
“I don’t think it makes sense for me to go up for Bigdash,” said Askren. “If he wants to come down to my weight that would be fantastic. For me to go up for a non champion, that’s not that exciting.
“If I’m the champion in my class it doesn’t make sense for me to go up to fight in a non-title bout. But going up to win another belt sounds like fun to me.”
The problem at present – more for the organisation than the fighter – is that opponents seem to focus completely on what the former Olympic wrestler might do to them, rather than sticking to their own fight plan, such has been Askren’s impressive winning run.
“That’s what happens,” said Askren. “I put you on your heels. You’re worried about the take down all the time. I swarm you, then I get on you and by the time you get back up you’re totally exhausted. It feels like you went through a blender – and then it’s all downhill.”
Another option might be the veteran Luis Santos (63-10-1), whose bout with Askren back in 2015 was declared a no contest after he caught the Brazilian in the eye with a finger.
But Kadestam upset Santos in May to set up his title shot, and Askren claimed a contract had been presented for a rematch “time and time again” but Santos had not consented to sign. Regardless, Askren said he would like to fight again this year.
“Obviously I’m 17-0 and I’m happy but every fight you’ve got to prove yourself over and over again,” said Askren. “It’s not like because you’re 16-0 you start with a huge advantage. I’ve just prepared diligently for every single fight and I’ll continue to do so.”
Askren’s display brought the curtain down on One’s first event in Shanghai and it played to a full house, reflecting again the rapid growth of the sport across mainland China. The American was impressed by what he witnessed.
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“Obviously with a new venue, you just don’t know,” he said. “But I came out during the preliminaries and the place was already almost full, from the second fight on.
“They were wild, they were really into it. When you’re a fighter you want the crowd to be into it, so that was really good.”