Ben Askren knows who he is.
Though the wrestler has drawn the ire of many fans for his grinding but effective style, Bellator’s welterweight champion says he will nonetheless stand by his skills as he defends his title for the third time against Karl Amoussou in tonight’s Bellator 86 main event at the Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla.
“I’m never going to change my style. I am who I am, and I’m not afraid to be that guy,” Askren recently said during a media conference call. “I’ve had a lot of time since my last fight, and I have made serious improvements in a lot of areas. Nevertheless, I’ll never be as good at anything else as I am at wrestling. Wrestling is my base, and I’m not shy about admitting that. I’m actually proud that I grew up a wrestler.”
A two-time Dan Hodge Trophy winner at the University of Missouri, Askren most recently defended his belt against Douglas Lima last April, overwhelming the Season 5 tournament winner with takedowns and top control en route to a unanimous decision victory. The triumph extended his career winning streak to 10 fights and brought the 2008 Olympian his seventh consecutive win in the Bellator cage. Despite his dominance, Askren was booed for his efforts, a fact that “Funky” says will not affect him moving forward.
“The one thing I [learned] from the Lima fight is that people want to see me lose for whatever reason -- my attitude, my style, I don’t know what it is. But when I get on top -- and I do get on top fast and frequently -- they know that the bottom guy has zero chance to escape and zero chance to submit me,” said Askren. “So it’s a rather boring fight for them, because they want to see me lose, but they know in their hearts that it’s not going to happen and they’re going to be disappointed for 25 minutes. Come Thursday, those fans are going to be disappointed again, because there is no way that belt is leaving my waist.”
In Amoussou, Askren faces a fighter not unlike Lima. Fast, explosive and powerful, “Psycho” is known to do his best work early in a fight. The Frenchman is just 3-3-1 when going the distance, picking up all three of his wins via split decision. This is a fact not lost on Askren, who most expect will try to wear Amoussou down over the course of five rounds when the two collide live on Spike TV.
“From what I’ve watched, Karl has problems in any fight that goes past the first round,” said Askren. “That [first round] definitely seems to be his strongest one, so I’m not sure if [rounds] four or five are going to be an issue. I really hope he has done a little more cardio, but after watching his long history of fighting, I’m not sure that’s going to be the case.”