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Two-time NCAA champ, former Bellator titleholder Ben Askren now with ONE FC

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Ben Askren, two-time NCAA wrestling champ at University of Missouri, and, until recently, Bellator Fighting Championships welterweight titleholder, announced Monday that he has signed with Singapore-based mixed martial arts organization One Fighting Championships (ONE FC).

Askren confirmed what had been openly speculated on at MMA and amateur wrestling websites and forums on his own Twitter account @Benaskren “Excited to have signed with and be fighting for the largest MMA organization in Asia,” as well as on Monday’s “The MMA Hour” with Ariel Helwani, saying, "It's been a crazy three weeks, but it ended up turning out pretty well for me. I'll be heading over to ONE FC."

Askren told “The MMA Hour” that his ONE FC deal is for two years and six fights. The former Mizzou mat champ said that he expects to make his debut in March or April.

Askren’s decision to go with ONE FC was not totally out of the blue, as last week it had been reported that Askren had joined Evolve MMA gym, which is a training facility for a number of ONE FC fighters. However, many in MMA and wrestling had predicted Askren would join World Series of Fighting, including UFC President Dana White, who had strongly suggested he join the promotion.

According to Askren, though, it was Dana's suggestion that ultimately pushed him to join One FC. "I thought we were going to come to a deal [with the UFC]," he said. "It's clear that it isn't about me, it's about Dana's quarrel with Bellator." When a WSOF contract slid over his desk after being officially shot down by the UFC, though, he refused to let them call the shots for him, "I've got a really hard time with people telling me what to do, and if I'm your employee, I'm going to listen to you... but now I'm not your employee and you're telling me what to do? That's crazy.”

Before Askren made his ONE FC announcement Monday, InterMat senior writer T.R. Foley addressed the rumors in his Foley’s Friday Mailbag on Dec. 6.

“For those who don't follow MMA closely, it might seem like Askren is simply being shunned by the UFC, and though that has merit, his move is nonetheless brilliant. Where some would see failure in not being signed by the UFC, in reality Askren might be making the more profitable career move by taking his marketability and talent to southeast Asia.”

“Start with his training situation... “ continued Foley, a 2004 NCAA All-American for University of Virginia. “EvolveMMA is without questions the best MMA gym in Asia. The staff includes dozens of the best muay thai instructors in the world, Olympic wrestler Heath Sims and a half-dozen Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts. As for training partners, Askren will have Shinya Aoki, Jake Butler and rotating cast of talented visitors. When it comes to preparation, EvolveMMA is the best option in Asia.”

“But to make the argument that Askren is making a positive career move, you'll also have to consider his compensation and quality of life. Evolve is not only a fight gym, but also a large and VERY profitable consumer gym with locations around Singapore. As part of most compensations package Evolve tends to give fighters a place to live, huge salary and free management and sponsorship representation… Askren will likely be asked to help coach wrestling, grappling and MMA courses and can give private lessons on the side,” according to Foley.

Launched in September 2011, ONE FC has held 13 events since its inception on Sept. 13, 2011. According to onefc.com , the organization has 17 welterweight fighters on its roster, including reigning champion Adam Shahir Kayoom.

A native of Wisconsin, Ben Askren was a four-time NCAA All-American at Missouri, winning national titles in 2006 and 2007. He also was a member of the U.S. freestyle team competing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Askren has crafted a perfect 12-0 record in MMA, most recently successfully defended his Bellator welterweight (170-pound) crown at Bellator 97 in July, stopping previously undefeated Andrey Koreshkov at 2:58 of the fourth round.

In addition to his MMA career, Askren is actively involved with the new Agon Wrestling venture, both as a matchmaker and as a competitor, defeating Penn State two-time champ Quentin Wright in the main event of Agon Wrestling I: The Revolution in Las Vegas in October.

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