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Saturday, January 18, 2014

No Holds Barred: Ben Askren on Agon 3, ONE FC, Wrestling, and MMA 

On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again spoke with the Agon Wrestling Championships' matchmaker and wrestler, undefeated ONE FC fighter, U.S. Olympian, and two-time NCAA Div. I national wrestling champion Ben Askren.

His next competition will be in the main event of Agon 3 on Sunday, January 26, when he will be wrestling Mike Poeta, who is an assistant coach at the University of Illinois, a three-time NCAA All-American, and a two-time NCAA finalist for Illinois. Agon 3 will take place at the Williams Center in Whitewater, Wisconsin, and will be webcast live on the Agon web site. The Agon Wrestling Championships is one of several organizations bringing back real professional wrestling, and uses a mix of American folkstyle and freestyle wrestling rules.

In addition, he has recently signed to fight in Asia's largest MMA promotion, ONE FC, and expects to debut there this spring.

We spoke with Ben Askren by phone Friday.

Speaking of his many roles, including Agon matchmaker, he said, "I always just look for opportunities like this that I think fit me well and that I'm passionate about, and this is something that fits both those categories. I would love, just like most wrestling fans would, to see an authentic professional wrestling succeed and thrive in America."

He added, "It's definitely something new in my career, and something that I'm really passionate and looking forward to helping."

We discussed some of what has to occur for this new incarnation of real professional wrestling to succeed. While he is happy with what has been done so far, he said that there still is "a long way to go," mentioning the need for improvements in production of events, building a steady audience, and working with the media. While specific plans for Agon are still being worked out, he would like eventually to see a belt system for champions established like other combat sports have.

Ironically, he noted that Agon seems to have received a more positive response from the MMA media than the wrestling media, which he said is often "resistant to change."

As for ONE FC, he said, "I think it's going to be a good fit." He has already trained at Evolve MMA in Singapore, which he said had "great facilities" which are better than American gyms, and plans to train there again before his first ONE FC fight.

In addition, he has followed the history of catch wrestling, the style utilized a century ago by wrestlers like Frank Gotch and Farmer Burns, where you could only win by pin or submission. This was the last time that real professional wrestling was a major sport, and he knows that there are lessons to be learned today from catch wrestling, both in terms of essential techniques and promotion. He said he hopes to follow some of the main matches in catch, as catch wrestling is also being rebuilt as a legitimate sport.

We also discussed more about his busy life and dual careers in wrestling and MMA, where he sees it headed, and much more.

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ONE Fighting Championship. ONE FC is Asia's largest and most prestigious mixed martial arts event. ONE FC features the best Asian fighters and has initiated the ONE Asia Partnership Network, which includes most of the major MMA promotions and MMA gyms in Asia. For more information, go to their web site, at ONEFC.com.

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