One of the most important objectives for Bellator Fighting Championships is to use their new Spike platform to build some of their fighters into stars within the sport. Lightweight champion Michael Chandler has already taken a stride in building himself into that star with his performance against Rick Hawn last week. This Thursday is another champion’s opportunity to grab his chunk of “stardom” as he looks to defend his title for the third time.
Whether you call him “Funky” or “The Wet Blanket” the fact of the matter is that Ben Askren is very effective at what he does in the cage. The two-time NCAA wrestling champion has transitioned that skill set over to the cage in a way that doesn’t excite the fan base but has gotten his hand raised 10 times in his four-year career. This Thursday he will defend his title against French fighter Karl Amoussou in Oklahoma in what will be his first opportunity to perform on a mainstream sports platform. This is Askren’s chance to prove that he is the MMA star that he’s called claimed to be and it may not be for how he performs during the fight.
As the world of mixed martial arts continues to change and fighters who talk the loudest are beginning to get more of the spotlight; Askren has the microphone skills to fit in perfectly. Askren has taken to his Twitter account to blast other fighters for PED accusations and say just about anything that comes to his mind. This is the same fighter that when asked during a Sherdog radio show how he felt about fans criticizing his fighting style he responded with the insults that most fighters wish they could say. Askren doesn’t pull any punches when on the microphone and that could be the ability that “gets him over” with the fans come this Thursday.
If Askren continues competing and winning the way he has he will need something to make himself more marketable to both Bellator and other promotions and right now that is his ability to work the microphone. A simple Google search will reveal the multitude of times that Askren has taken shots at fighters such as Vitor Belfort, Rory MacDonald and Anthony Johnson, among others. As we see fighters like Nick Diaz and Chael Sonnen given opportunities that some believe are out of their ranger due to recent performances. In Bellator, Askren has the opportunity to sit atop one of the deepest division in MMA, while increasing his worth through being “controversial” whenever a microphone or camera is pointing his way.
In professional sports, stars are made in a variety of ways. While a high level of performance seems to be the best way of staying in the spotlight it is not the only way an athlete can rise to prominence in their chosen craft. Bellator’s Ben Askren may become the next fighter to not only hold his own in the cage, but to be able to talk his way into the limelight at the same time.