For Ben ‘Funky’ Askren, his 24 November bout with Shinya Aoki isn’t just an opportunity to test his skills against a martial arts legend – it’s also the perfect way to bring the curtain down on a stellar career in martial arts.
Askren, 33, faces the former ONE Lightweight World Champion in the co-main event of ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT in Singapore looking to end his career with his remarkable undefeated record (17-0, 1 NC) intact.
It marks the end of a glittering career in competitive martial arts that has seen him win multiple titles worldwide, culminating in him capturing the ONE Welterweight World Title back in 2014, when he defeated Nobutatsu Suzuki in just 84 seconds at ONE: REIGN OF CHAMPIONS in Dubai.
More recently, Askren dominated Malaysian star Agilan Thani, stopping him via TKO after just 140 seconds at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES, and in his most recent outing, Askren delivered another dominant performance. The American overwhelmed Swedish challenger Zebaztian Kadestam before finishing him via TKO in the second round at ONE CHAMPIONSHIP: SHANGHAI in September.
Looking back on his latest victory, Askren said: “It went fantastic. Everything went according to plan. It was exactly the way I envisioned it.
“Zebaztian never gave up, which is a really good quality to have. But at the same time, in the second period, he was really more worried about surviving than actually doing something to win.”
Askren may have faced an opponent in survival mode in his most recent contest, but that certainly won’t be the case against seasoned submission specialist Aoki, who has a staggering 25 submission victories on his record (39-7, 1 NC). That’s more submissions than Askren has had bouts.
As far as Askren is concerned, it represents the perfect challenge to round off his career.
“Shinya is a really good final opponent,” he said. “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.”
In total, Askren has competed six times inside the ONE Championship cage, dominating his opponents on each occasion.
Now, knowing his 24 November bout will be his last before hanging up his gloves, the Milwaukee native is working hard in camp to ensure he goes out as an undefeated world champion, before swapping his shorts for a suit as he gets set to take up a role as a ONE Championship executive.
“I had been planning this out for a while,” he explained. “I have been pretty open about it. I had this expiration date set on myself, so I said to ONE Championship at the end of 2015 that I have two years left, and then I am done. I am going to walk away.”
Now that time has almost arrived. He just has one more test to face in the form of Aoki, who has lost just once in his last 10 bouts, a run spanning five years of competition.
“He is a grappler and has a great skill set that I respect, so I think it will be a great battle,” said Askren. “I said from day one that I am the best in the world at what I do, and this is what I am going to do every single time.
“I have been saying that since I started in 2009, and I believe it more strongly than ever, because I have proved it 17 times now, and I am pumped to prove it again.”