Bellator Welterweight Champion Ben “Funky” Askren will step inside the Bellator cage this Saturday, fighting MMA veteran Nick Thompson at the main event of the night. Askren won the Bellator Season Three Welterweight Tournament (def. Dan Hornbuckle) last year, then capturing the Bellator Welterweight title from the hands of Lyman Good at Bellator 33.
“Funky” is 7-0 in his Mixed Martial Arts career, and is considered as one of the most decorated Wrestlers in the sport today. Ben Askren is a two-time NCAA Division I Champion for the University of Missouri and the 2008 Beijing Olympics Men’s 74kg Freestyle Wrestling participant.
Here’s what Ben Askren had to say about this Saturday’s fight against Nick Thompson, the future of his career and Jake Shield’s chances against Georges St. Pierre. Bellator 40 (XL) will take place this Saturday, on April 9th at First Council Casino in Newkirk, Oklahoma. The event will be aired LIVE on MTV2 at 9p/8c.
Hey Ben. Your first fight as a Bellator Welterweight Champion this weekend, against Nick Thompson. How are you feeling coming to this fight?
I’m more than ready for this fight. All the hard training is pretty much done, and right now it’s just the fine tuning and getting ready to fight. I have around 12 pounds to cut, but I’ll start doing it a few days before the fight.
Last time we spoke, it was before you fight against Lyman Good for the Bellator Welterweight title. Is there any difference now in your mindset, or career in general, when you have that belt?
Nothing at all. Nothing changed. Getting this belt was just a stepping stone to greater things in Mixed Martial Arts. Now I have new goals in my career, and just keeping on working.
Your opponent, Nick Thompson, is a well-rounded fighter with a lot of submissions and KO victories on his record. What was the most important aspect of your preparations for this fight?
I just concentrated on getting myself better as a fighter. At this point of time, I know I have a lot of areas where I can improve, and I’m just working hard on closing some “holes” in my game. If I do that, give my best in training, the rest of the things will just take care of themselves during the fight. But anyway, like I said, I’m fully prepared and ready to go. It’s just about going there and beat somebody up.
There’s also an experience factor about Nick Thompson. Do you think that the fact that he has over 50 fights gives him some sort of advantage?
He’s experienced, but his weaknesses are just like of anyone else. I’m prepared to expose those weaknesses. I really think I’m going to hammer Nick Thompson in every area of fighting.
And what do you consider his main weakness?
His main weakness is probably his cardio. I watched his fights a lot and he’s getting tired very quickly.
Do you consider Wrestling as the most important aspect of Mixed Martial Arts?
It’s important, but just like any other skill you can have in this sport. Wrestling is great as a background, because all wrestlers are hard workers, and you have to be a hard worker if you want to succeed in this sport.
Would you like to try out for the 2012 Olympics in London?
No. I’m not going to try out for the Olympics. MMA is the only thing I’m concentrated on right now, and that’s where I want to continue my career.
I just looked up in your Twitter, and you’re picking Rick Hawn to become the Bellator Welterweight Tournament winner. Can you explain why?
I picked him before the Tournament even started. He’s an Olympian, and it just proves how successful he can be. He’s already a couple of fights into the tournament, so I definitely think he could be the person I’m going to defend my title against sometime in Fall.
Speaking about a tournament, when you were a part of the Bellator Welterweight Tournament you fought three times in three month. Now, as a Champion you’re going to fight slightly less. Do you prefer to stay busier like in the “tournament times”?
Doesn’t matter to me. I’m still training a lot and do everything to stay sharp. It would be great to fight more, but still, I don’t mind and really feel like I could have it either way.
There’s a video of you training with Jake Shields before his fight against Martin Kampmann. How do you rate Jake’s chances against Georges St. Pierre?
I think Jake has an equal chance in this fight, and I know that he wanted to fight Georges for a very long time. I think that Jake is very very good with his Wrestling and his Jiu-Jitsu, and give Georges St. Pierre a lot of problems in that area. He’s going to bring the game to him, and put him in situations he never experienced before.
Great. Any prediction for Saturday night? And what would be your message to Nick Thompson?
I’m going to win via Domination. Probably Submission. And to Nick, I say: man, you better get ready to fight on Saturday. It’s not going to be easy!
Would you like to mention any sponsors?
Yes, I would like to thank CageFighter, Everlast and CageHero.