Disc golf, MMA keeping Ben Askren busy

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 | 7:57 p.m. CDT; updated 8:14 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Ben Askren, a former MU wrestler and U.S. Olympian who has recently gone professional in MMA, trains at Columbia's American Top Team gym in 2009.

COLUMBIA — Ben Askren’s voice cuts out as his cell phone loses its signal. Monday evening, Askren is driving down a large hill in Ohio, one of the four planned stops on an extended honeymoon. Askren was married April 9 in Kansas City.

Ohio sticks out like a sore thumb when compared to his and his wife Amy's other stops in Key West, Fla., the Virgin Islands and Santa Barbara, Calif. But Ohio is the location of the Brent Hambrick Memorial Open, a disc golf tournament in Westerville.

“I played in the pro division for the first time,” Askren said. “There’s three amateur divisions and one pro. I usually play in the highest amateur, but I tried to enter and it was full, so I played pro.”

Askren picked up the sport while wrestling for MU where he earned NCAA championships in 2006 and 2007. After graduating, he went on to wrestle for the United States at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and he now works as director of operations for the Arizona State wrestling team.

Along the way he kept playing disc golf.

“I’m the kind of person with an addictive personality,” Askren said. “I play every single day I can."

Disc golf is only one sport Askren has been competing in professionally. After trying professional mixed martial arts and compiling a 6-0 record, he says he is stepping off the mat and into the cage full time.

"For the time being I’m done wrestling,” Askren said. “I’m focusing solely on mixed martial arts.”

With a victory over Dan Hornbuckle on June 17 at the Kansas City Power & Light District, Askren became the welterweight tournament champion of the Bellator Fighting Championships. The win set the stage for his next opponent, Lyman Good. Good won the first season’s welterweight tournament. The two will square off this fall to determine the ultimate champion.

Askren says to prepare for the bout he needs to improve his boxing.

“My standup has improved from six months ago, but obviously I’m still not nearly as good there as I am on the ground,” Askren said.

Askren has teamed up with boxing coach Mario Francis of Lion’s Den MMA Academy in Scottsdale, Ariz., to improve his striking in the cage.

In the future, Askren sees himself moving up the ranks of mixed martial arts to fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The league is home to the top-ranked mixed martial arts fighters.

“I’m locked into a contract with Bellator, so I’m not really sure what’s going to happen,” Askren said. “I will get there eventually.”

But for now, he has his sights set on Lyman Good. Askren hopes the upcoming fight will also take place in Kansas City, where he is a clear crowd favorite because of his MU wrestling career.

“I’m still a Tiger at heart even though I’m not in Columbia,” Askren said.

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Thomas Squires July 14, 2010 | 9:27 a.m.

This story rocked my socks off. Someone should nominate this Ben Frederickson character for writer of the year.

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