Former MU wrestler tackles new challenge in mixed martial arts

Tuesday, February 3, 2009 | 8:06 p.m. CST
Ben Askren was a two-time national champion and four-time All-American selection during his time as an MU wrestler.

COLUMBIA — Ben Askren hopes the “ground and pound” technique will work Saturday night in his MMA debut at the Columbia Holiday Inn Expo Center. MMA is short for mixed martial arts. The fighters compete in a steel cage, and the fights can be won by submission or knockout.

Askren first heard of the “ground and pound” technique from former UFC fighter Mark Coleman. The technique is what it sounds like. You take your opponent off his feet and force him to the ground. Then, you pound him into submission.

Competing in mixed martial arts may be new for Askren, but he is no stranger to the sport.

“I’ve been watching it since the early days,” Askren said. “We watched all kinds of sports when I was younger. After I got into college, it started reaching mainstream popularity. I started seeing a lot of guys I wrestled with in college and I wrestled with in the past start to do it. This is when it started interesting me.”

Askren will be taking on Tom Aaron. He admitted he knows very little about his opponent. This has not hurt his confidence.

“I’m very excited,” Askren said. “I have been training for quite a while for this. Obviously, I’ll probably be nervous before I get in there. I think my training is good enough. My wrestling background is great. I’ll be able to control the fight and take it where I want to.”

Askren has been wrestling since the age of six. He is arguably the best wrestler MU has ever had. He is a two-time national champion and four-time All-American. He also made the United States Olympic team last summer. He is not sure if he will attempt to compete in the next Olympics.

But he realizes it will take time if he is going to dominate fighting like he did wrestling.

“It’s a long-term goal more than anything,” Askren said. “It’s not going to happen tomorrow. It’s not going to happen overnight. You have to be really good at a lot of things to be great at mixed martial arts. There’s striking, there’s groundwork, there’s wrestling. It’s going to take time, but I’m in here for the long run. I’m here to work hard.”

Askren dominated his opponents in wrestling by taking them down and never letting them gain an advantage. While he remains focused on becoming a better fighter, he does not consider himself a full-time fighter.

“I’m a wrestler first and foremost, and I will be my whole life,” Askren said. "That’s what I did. I’m going to learn how to fight. I’m going to learn how to do all those other things.”

The event starts at 8 p.m. and doors will open at 7.

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