Former Olympian, ONE and Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren is coming to Australia for a series of wrestling and grappling seminars along the east coast. A two time NCAA champion, Askren will be in Australia from the 30th of November – 10th of December to share his knowledge of grappling with those in attendance. This will be Askren’s first time in Australia, and says he is excited to experience the country while he is here.
“I’ve never been to Australia and one of my best friends is really upset at me because he lived there for about a decade and I always planned on going after one of my ONE championship fights…I never was able to make it down to see him so he’s mad at me that I’m going now…Excited to be in Australia very shortly.“ Askren said.
Recently, Askren was honoured by the university of Missouri as they revealed a trophy cabinet specifically to showcase Askren’s achievements has been placed in the sports wing of the university. The display featured a plaque that highlights all of Askren’s wrestling achievements, alongside a copy of his book and one of his two Hodge trophies – and award given to the best college wrestler in the United States.
“When I went to Missouri, coach Smith was new, and he just had this vision of what Missouri would become and I was able to help get it over the hump and now they’ve been just consistently one of the better programs in America for the last 12 to 15 years.” Askren said.
Now retired from in ring competition, Askren is full time coaching at the Askren Wrestling Academy, a gym he started with his brother and his high school wrestling coach. Askren is now coaching young wrestlers to winning the same titles and championships he did when he was competing.
“I’ve been full time coaching for about three or four years now. It’s really awesome having so much fun. We have seven locations in the state of Wisconsin and it’s going really, really well.”
Askren considered moving from wrestling to MMA after graduating college in 2007 but ended up competing in the 2008 Olympics first. As a stand-alone sport, wrestling wasn’t feasible to do full time, while MMA appeared as another way to earn a livable wage while getting to do what he loved; wrestle.
“Right when I graduated college, I talked to Randy Couture, I talked to a few others. I kind of grilled some people and tried to get a good idea of ‘is this something I want to do?’ I eventually decided going to the Olympics was kind of a lifelong dream. Something I had thought about from 2000 when I saw the Olympic trials. So ‘hey, this is only 15, 16 months away, let me go do it, and by that point I’ll have a good understanding of what my life will look like if this is what I choose to do.’ And after the Olympics I didn’t achieve what I wanted to, but what it felt like to me was ‘ok, I got four years till the next one of these.’ …[in MMA] I was able to have the success relatively early where I won the Bellator tournament, then I won the Bellator belt. That was within the first kind of 18 months of me fighting.” Askren said.
As the wrestling world has continued to grow in the United States, Askren said competitors now have the opportunity to wrestle full time, and are less likely to need to turn to MMA to make money.
“At this point in time, a lot of guys are staying in wrestling cause a lot of guys can actually make a living in wrestling. So the very best guys aren’t coming out. Bo Nickal is one of the first guys in a long time that is like a very, very elite level wrestler to come in and do mixed martial arts, and obviously he’s having a lot of success.”
Although not as developed as the United States, Askren does acknowledge Australia’s wrestling isn’t as bad as once thought, particularly in the case of Alexander Volkanovski.
“[Volkanovski] does it, for someone who didn’t wrestle during his life, he does a great job at defending a lot of the stuff and has a really good feel for it….The wrestling scene is a little underdeveloped. I think that’s probably a good reason why my seminars should be pretty well attended because I think I can give some good insight into the wrestling world and how to get takedowns and then obviously how to get takedowns for mixed martial arts and how to get takedowns for jiu jitsu and how to functionally use all those things. Australians are tough, they need more wrestling. I should start some Askren Wrestling Academies down there.”
Within the combat sports world, Askren has an incredible resume that includes things such as Olympic wrestler, two time NCAA champion, Two time Hodge trophy winner, Bellator welterweight champion, winner of the Bellator welterweight grand prix, ONE welterweight champion, pro boxer, and UFC fighter. Looking back on it all, Askren said he can think back to himself in high school and be amazed by everything that he’s achieved.
“It’s pretty amazing. Sometimes you do forget about it. It’s amazing and yesterday I had that moment where I was thinking back to 22 years ago when coach Smith is trying to convince a high school kid that ‘you can come to Missouri and you can put a program on the map and you can be the first national champion’ and it’s just a high school kid who hasn’t done shit in his life. And now I go win two national titles, I win two Hodge trophies for the best college wrestler, go to the Olympics, go fight mixed martial arts and now we have likely the best wrestling academy in America. Man it feels good.” Askren said.
Ben Askren’s seminar dates are as follows:
Thursday November 30, Hammers Gym, Nunawading
Friday December 1st, Westside MMA, Ravenhall
Saturday December 2nd, MEET N GREET, Corner Hotel, Richmond
Sunday December 3, John Donehue Jiu Jitsu & MMA, Notting Hill
Monday December 4, Gracie Jiu Jitsu, Burwood
Wednesday December 6, Emerge Mixed Martial Arts, Mascot
Friday December 8, Kings Academy, Moorebank
Saturday December 9, Fight Club, Gold Coast
Sunday December 10, Fightcross MMA & Fitness, Brisbane
“We love to travel. Honestly, that is one of the things that drew me to ONE championship. My wife and I got to see a lot of really awesome things because after every fight we would go on a little couple day trip. I’ve always wanted to go to Australia…I’m really excited for it, I think it’s going to be a blast.” Askren said.