Defending champ Ben Askren on getting in the cage in Dubai
The mixed martial arts grappler is defending his welterweight title at the ONE FC Reign of Champions, Benita Adesuyan catches up with him ahead of the fight.
This is your first time in the UAE, what do you think of the place so far and how do you feel about fighting here? It has been awesome – I’ve only been here 24 hours but you can see that it’s an amazing place with all the buildings and the beaches. I’d heard so much about Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab that getting to see them all first hand is just awesome. I’m really excited to be fighting here and there’s a big appetite and audience for MMA here.
What’s your training schedule like ahead of a big event? It’s intense. I train 10 times a week, two times a day most days, and then once on Saturday, and I take Sunday off. I keep my training varied so sometimes we do sparring or full contact MMA, some days we do Jiu Jitsu.
Do you have to amend you diet ahead of a fight like this? Oh yeah, I have to cut back on any unhealthy food, and keep it all nutritious, and I have to maintain my weight.
MMA has a reputation for being pretty brutal - what is it like getting to the cage? I love it. You work hard all the time. I train 10 times a week and only get to get in the cage a few times a year so it’s like the payoff from all the hard work you did, so for me getting into the cage is the perk of the job.
Don’t you get a bit scared or nervous? No. never - there’s no room for fear when you get in the cage.
Is there a lot of pressure for you as you’re undefeated? I love to compete and I love to get in the cage so I never feel nerves or pressure I’m just excited to compete.
MMA combines various fighting disciplines, what’s your favourite form? It has to be wrestling, that’s my background I did that my whole life, and I’m a brown belt now in Jiu Jitsu so I’m pretty good with that. I have a really good coach so I’m making big improvements.
Have you had any serious injuries? No I’ve been really lucky - I stay healthy and I haven’t had any major injuries – lots of minor ones though.
You and your brother Max have recently set up wrestling academies, why did you decide to do this? We have two academies, we set up one in 2011 and one in 2013, and it’s just about giving back to the kids. Obviously wrestling has given me a lot in life from a job, to structure and discipline so it’s great to be able to give that to kids.
Do you and your brother ever fight each other? Max was a national champion also but he’s not in MMA. We’ve wrestled our whole lives so it’s what comes naturally to us. See Ben Askren take on Nobutatsu Suzuki at the One Fighting Championship: Reign of Champions, Friday August 29, Dubai World Trade Centre, Downtown Dubai. www.onefc.com