Who is Ben Askren?
Ben Askren is a retired professional mixed martial artist and an amateur wrestler from the United States who enjoyed a highly successful MMA career; winning the Bellator and ONE Welterweight Championship. He then competed in UFC before announcing his retirement in 2019. Earlier, he competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics as part of United States wrestling team. Ben Askren began wrestling in high school and became a two-time state wrestling champion and also won a Junior National title. In college, at the University of Missouri, he was a two-time NCAA Division I National champion and two time Big 12 Conference champion. For his impressive performance, he won the Dan Hodge Award, Schalles award and was also inducted into University of Missouri Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame. He also won the Pan American Championships Senior Freestyle Gold Medal during this time. His unconventional funky style of wrestling earned him the nickname of Funky. Apart from wrestling and MMA, he has also been involved in competitive disc golf. Post retirement, Ben Askren runs a wrestling academy with his brother and co-hosts various podcast related to wrestling. He has also invested in cryptocurrency. Additionally, he made his boxing debut recently too.
Childhood & Early Life
Benjamin Michael Askren was born on 18 July 1984 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Chuck and Michele Askren. He has a brother named Max Askren.
He grew up in Wisconsin and attended Arrowhead High School and later went to the University of Missouri from where he graduated in 2007.
He played numerous sports while growing up but found his interest developing towards wrestling more. He was introduced to wrestling by his father when he was just six years old but became serious about the sport after he joined a club in the sixth grade.
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During high school, Ben Askren bagged the state wrestling championship twice in 2001 and 2002 and claimed the 2002 Junior National tournament as well.
While in college, he represented the Missouri Tigers and was an NCAA Division I wrestler of the 174-pound weight class. He reached the finals four times and after finishing as a runner-up in the first two season, he became a dominant force in the final two seasons, bagging the NCAA Division I Championship twice (2006 and 2007).
In the final two seasons, Ben Askren remained undefeated winning 87 matches in a row. His NCAA performance bagged him Dan Hodge Award for top collegiate wrestler of the year in both years. He was honoured with the Schalles award for Top Collegiate Pinner of the Year for both years as well.
In college, Ben Askren became known for his pinning skills and unconventional funky style of wrestling.
His college career, which concluded with a record of 153–8, also comprised two Big 12 Championship wins and 91 pins, the third highest pins in the history of NCAA Division 1’s history. Later, in 2012, he was inducted into University of Missouri Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame.
Post his college career, he worked as a volunteer assistant coach in Columbia and thereafter went to Arizona St as coach. Additionally, he organised wrestling camps, for children, along with his brother Max.
During this period, he also worked on his freestyle wrestling skills and claimed the US National Championship in 2008.
He qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics by winning the 74kg freestyle championship at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. At the Olympics, he won his first match but was defeated and eliminated later.
After Olympic, he decided to pursue a career in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and therefore began training at the American Top Team’s main school in Florida. His professional MMA debut came in 2009 in Columbia against Josh Flowers wherein he emerged victorious.
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The same year, he competed in ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship and registered his victory against Toni Linden before being defeated by veteran grappler Pablo Popovitch. In 2009 yet again, he scored a gold medal in FILA 2° World Grappling Championship defeating previous year’s winner Jacob Volkmann.
Despite turning towards MMA, Ben Askren competed in wrestling matches from time to time. In 2010, he won Dave Schultz Memorial International Open Senior Freestyle championship and bagged the silver medal in the Cerro Pelado International Senior Freestyle competition. Later, he also participated in Agon Wrestling Championships, Flo Premier League and in the Beat the Streets benefit event.
He next joined the Bellator MMA and emerged as the winner of Bellator Season Two Welterweight Tournament in June 2010 after defeating Dan Hornbuckle.
In October 2010, he took down Lyman Good and claimed the Bellator Welterweight Championship. He defended his title for the next four times at Bellator 56, 64, 86 and 97. This was the most successful title defences in the history of Bellator.
He had an undefeated 9-0 record at Bellator. He never lost his title; instead he vacated it when he quit Bellator in 2013 and joined ONE Championship with two-year/six-fight contract.
In 2014, he defeated ONE champion Nobutatsu Suzuki at ONE FC: Reign of Champions to claim the ONE Welterweight Champion title. He retained the title for the next three years by defeating the likes of Nikolay Aleksakhin, Agilan Thani, Zebaztian Kadestam and Shinya Aoki. In 2017, he vacated the title when he left the company.
In 2018, he joined UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) and won UFC 235 defeating Robbie Lawler in March 2019. He was then knocked out by Jorge Masvidal UFC 239 in July the same year. The knockout which happened five second into the first round became the fastest knockout in UFC history and put an end to his winning spree.
In October 2019, he once again lost the fight, this time against MMA veteran Demian Maia at UFC Fight of the(1) Night. The following month, he announced his retirement from MMA.
Apart from wrestling and MMA, Ben Askren also played competitive disc golf in his career and is sponsored by Discraft.
In 2009, he bagged the first place in Mighty MO Advanced, second place in St. Louis Open Advanced, third place in First Class Challenge and fourth place in PDGA Amateur World Doubles Championships Advanced. In 2011, he secured the second spot in the United States Amateur Disc Golf Championship.
Post retirement, Ben Askren runs the Askren Wrestling Academy which he established together with his brother Max in 2011. The academy now operates in three location – Lake Country, North Shore and Green Bay.
He also co-hosts few podcasts including FloWrestling Radio Live, The Funky & FRB Show and The T-Row & Funky Show. He has also hosted the RUDIS Wrestling Podcast.
He has invested in cryptocurrency and has promoted brands like Dollamur Sport, My Bookie, and Reebok.
In 2021, he made his professional boxing debut against Internet personality and professional boxer, Jake Paul. He was knocked out in the first round by Paul.
Family & Personal Life
Ben Askren married Amy Askren in 2010 and the couple has three children – a son and two daughters.