MMA superstar Ben “Funky” Askren is set to make his much-awaited return to the ONE Championship cage on 26 May as he stakes his undefeated record and the coveted ONE Welterweight World Championship title against fellow unbeaten fighter Agilan “The Alligator” Thani of Malaysia.
Both men are scheduled to collide in the co-headliner of ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES, which takes place at the 12,000-seater Singapore Indoor Stadium.
When the champion known as “Funky” enters the sold-out showground for the scheduled five-round championship clash with Thani, it will have been over a year since he last made the walk to the cage.
However, his Malaysian opponent has competed three times since then and still has the enthusiasm and drive to seek improvements in his game every day at the tender age of 21.
Thani's rise in MMA after just a few years in the sport has been spectacular, but Askren believes there is nothing his foe can do that will prepare him for what is about to come.
"It does not matter what my opponent's strengths and weaknesses are, because at the end of the day, I have got the trump card. He cannot stop my wrestling, which he cannot, then he is going to be on his back, and he is going to get beaten up," he said.
Askren’s claim is not erroneous as he 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.
In addition, Askren is universally recognized as one of the best welterweight in mixed martial arts (MMA) today and one of the best fighters in the world pound-for-pound.
The 32-year-old grappling expert from Milwaukee, Wisconsin holds an unblemished professional MMA record of 15-0 with four knockout victories and four submission wins.
“Usually, it is just not enough, and by usually, I mean it always is never enough,” Askren quipped.
Although Askren acknowledges Thani’s inspirational story of coming from Malaysia’s lower level development scene all the way to a ONE Championship title contest, he is confident of keeping the gold-plated strap around his waist and his unscathed win-loss MMA slate intact.
“He's young and he's coming up and he might be great someday, but I keep telling people May 26 is not going to be his day. May 26 is going to be a very tough day in the life of Agilan Thani,” he ended.