Bellator champion Ben Askren is one of the best American wrestlers to ever enter MMA. But the 2008 Olympian, two time Div I NCAA Champion, and two time Hodge Trophy winner, is not a fan favorite, as he relies on wrestling to win, not KOs and submissions.
The great irony in MMA is that wrestling is the best base for the sport, but is the least appreciated aspect of the game.
In an extended interview with MMMJunkie, Askren reflects.
"When I won a Bellator tournament, I was only a year and four months into my fighting career, maybe," said Askren. "My outlook was, OK, now I get all this time to actually get good at this."
"I've been with Duke for one year now. I'm not under the delusion that I'm going to become a world-class striker in a year. That's crazy. If anybody thinks they can actually do that, they're an idiot.
"If you read a lot of the psychology research, they say to become a world-class competitor in something, it takes 10 years, roughly. So, I haven't got 10 years. I'll be plenty well retired from fighting by the time I hit 10 years in fighting."
"I don't expect (the fans) to appreciate (wrestling). I would say the majority of MMA fans don't have a great technical knowledge base, and really, what they want to see is people snapping arms, or people knocking people out. There's no appreciation for the finer points of jiu-jitsu or wrestling. But I'm OK with that. It's not like I feel the need to change it or think I actually can."
"Most people aren't very good at MMA. I look at it from the perspective that I'm ranked, whatever, ninth to 15th in the world right now (in MMA). In wrestling, if I were to wrestle today, I probably wouldn't be in the top-50. But I'm a way better pure wrestler than an MMA fighter."
"It's more about making me the best mixed martial artist I can be, as opposed to trying to gameplan. I'm three years into my fighting career. Why am I going to be gameplanning for somebody? I need to be good.
"Am I going out there looking for the knockout ever? Probably not. I doubt I'll ever do that. I'm smart enough to stick with what I do well. I know I wrestle and use my offensive jiu-jitsu better than almost anyone in MMA. So I'm going to stick to my guns."
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