Former MU wrestler tackles new challenge in mixed martial arts

Tuesday, February 3, 2009 | 8:06 p.m. CST

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.