SINGAPORE — He had suffered an embarrassing, five-second defeat in his previous bout in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
And so Ben Askren is eager to show that his only professional loss was a fluke, as he prepares to battle Brazilian veteran Demian Maia in the headlining welterweight fight in the UFC Fight Night event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on 26 October.
The 36-year-old American, a familiar face in the local mixed martial arts (MMA) circle after a memorable unbeaten stint with Singapore-based fight company ONE Championship from 2013 to 2017, was knocked out by a flying knee from compatriot Jorge Masvidal in his most recent fight.
The five-second knockout is the fastest in UFC history and, not surprisingly for the outspoken Askren, the defeat still stings.
“I made one wrong move, and that has never happened before in my fighting career. But it cost me a shot at challenging for the welterweight title and it was kind of catastrophic,” he said at a media conference promoting the UFC Fight Night at Mandarin Oriental hotel on Tuesday (3 September).
“But UFC has a short memory, and if I can win my next few bouts, I’ll be back on track again. I’m treating this fight as seriously as I do for all my fights, especially since I’m back at a place where I’ve had lots of great wins.”
One of the best grapplers in the business
The American will nevertheless have a tough fight back in his former stomping ground, as Maia is widely regarded as one of the best exponents of Brazilian jiu-jitsu grappling, with 21 wins in the UFC, the second-most in the American-based fight company’s history.
Throughout his 12-year UFC career, the 41-year-old has fought with many of the top MMA fighters over the middleweight and welterweight divisions, including Masvidal, Jon Fitch, Anderson Silva and Tyron Woodley.
As he begins to wind down his career, Maia is glad to have a chance to pit his grappling skills against Askren’s formidable wrestling know-how.
“After this fight, I want to do a couple more fights and maybe that’s it,” he said.
“So to get this chance to come to Singapore and face a totally unique fighter in Ben, it’s a great challenge.”
Fourth UFC event in Singapore
This year's Fight Night Singapore will be the fourth time that UFC will hold an event in the Republic, and the second under the three-year deal it had signed with Singapore Tourism Board and Singapore Sports Hub in 2018.
In June last year, UFC veteran Donald Cerrone headlined the card in Singapore in a bout with British upstart Leon Edwards. Edwards won via unanimous decision.
A year earlier, Holly Holm defeated Bethe Correia in the main event of the 2017 event. The first UFC event in Singapore was held in 2015, when Tarec Saffiedine beat Lim Hyun-gyu.
UFC senior vice-president (Asia Pacific) Kevin Chang believes that the upcoming headline fight between Askren and Maia is a “dream match-up” for MMA fans.
“This bout is a throwback for our MMA-savvy fans in Singapore who want to see a clash of fighting styles,” he said. “Ben Askren is an accomplished wrestler who uses his squeeze to run through opponents, but he's never faced someone like Demian Maia, arguably the greatest BJJ practitioner to compete in the Octagon.
“We're excited to see this fantastic main event go down.”
Tickets from $58 to $258
Other fights confirmed for the UFC Fight Night on 26 October include a lightweight division bout between the United States’ Michael John and Scotland’s Stevie Ray; a heavyweight battle between France’s Ciryl Gane and American Don’Tale Mayes; and another heavyweight bout between Russia’s Sergei Pavlovich and the US’ Maurice Greene.
Tickets are on sale at the Singapore Sports Hub website, and are priced from $58 to $258. There are also limited UFC VIP Experience packages available, ranging from $728 to $1,688.
For event updates, please check the UFC Singapore website.
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