For most athletes at the top of their game, retiring is unthinkable – unless you’re Ben Askren. We chat with the ONE Welterweight Champion about his early retirement and his upcoming final ONE Championship fight in Singapore
Martial arts fans in Singapore will have probably heard the news already: ONE Welterweight Champion Ben Askren is retiring at the ripe old age of 33. In a sport where most athletes — especially successful ones like Askren — fight well into their late 30s, the announcement came as a surprise to many of his fans. Askren’s final fight will be held right here in Singapore against Shinya Aoki at ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT. It’s going to be a nail-biting match, and one that will determine if he retires as an undefeated champion.
To find out more about why he’s decided to retire and how he’s prepping for his upcoming match, we sat down for a chat with Ben Askren.
We are giving away three pairs of tickets to ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT, where you will witness world champion Ben Askren in action. For a chance to win, simply like the ONE Championship and Honeycombers Facebook pages and leave a comment on our Facebook page tagging who you’ll bring. Plus, you can get 15% discount off tickets using the promo code ‘ONEFANS’ here.
Congrats on your recent win in Shanghai! You’re no stranger to success, with nine undefeated years under your belt – do you ever get used to it? How do you feel after every win?
It always feels great, especially in martial arts where there are so many variables. I never get over winning. It’s a validation that my training and preparation are on point, and that my sacrifices are worth it.
Your retirement announcement came as a surprise to many people. At 33 years old, you’ll be retiring earlier than most fighters. So the big question is, why now?
I’ve been planning this for a while. At some point you have to put a date on it or you will always keep saying “after the next one.” I want to respectfully leave the sport while I am still relatively young and in great health, unlike other athletes in combat sports who competed much longer past their prime and could not compete at the elite level. I also want to spend more time with my family, and also give back to the new generation by molding talents at my wrestling school, the Askren Wrestling Academy.
So, I had this “expiration” date set for myself. At the end of 2015, I told ONE Championship that I have two years left, and then I’m done. I’m going to walk away.
Your upcoming match against Shinya Aoki at ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT could determine whether you’ll retire with an undefeated streak. Are you nervous at all? How are you gearing yourself up for the match?
I’m not nervous at all; I love to compete! I am really looking forward to finishing my career on a high note against a very accomplished opponent. Training is going well. Obviously, Shinya has very specific strengths such as his elite submission and grappling skills, so I am spending a lot of time in analysing those areas.
What would you say to young martial arts athletes who aspire to follow in your footsteps?
Be ready to work hard and be persistent.
We’re sure we’ll still see you in the martial arts world, since you will be becoming an executive at ONE, but what will you miss most about being inside the ring?
I love to compete, and I’ll continue to do so through Askren Wrestling Academy. I may not be stepping on the mat myself, but I’ll always be challenging myself to be as good as I can be. I’m also looking forward to helping ONE Championship grow into an even more prominent role worldwide.
ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT, 24 November, Singapore Indoor Stadium, 2 Stadium Walk, Singapore 397691, p. 3158 7888. Get your tickets here.
This article is sponsored by ONE Championship