Ben Askren versus Shinya Aoki is simply two of the best testing themselves against each other
Santino Honasan on Nov 24, 2017 04:33 AM
"Belt is put on hold. Friday, itís about me fighting Shinya, me executing a gameplan and me proving that I have the skills and the ability to take him out." - Ben Askren (Photo courtesy of ONE Championship)
Behind every great fight is a good backstory, and Friday night's megabout between reigning and defending ONE welterweight world champion Ben Askren and former ONE lightweight world champion Shinya Aoki certainly as a lot of interesting backstories behind it.
For Askren, the narrative has been about this being his retirement fight, and this being a chance to cement his legacy as one of the best to ever set foot inside the ONE Championship cage.
It's also a chance for him to end his career as a champion, and being a champion is something that Askren knows a lot about, having had stellar world title runs in Bellator and now in ONE Championship.
Askren says that for him, it hasn't been about 'chasing' gold.
"Obviously, the best is a symbol of what I have achieved, but for me, it’s always one fight at a time. You can’t win the next fight until you win the one you have coming up, right?" Askren said during the pre-fight press conference, Wednesday. "Because I’ve been able to string a bunch of those wins together in a row, I’ve ended up with a lot of belts in my life."
For the reigning and defending champion, Friday's title defense isn't about defending the championship. It's about finding a way to defeat a fellow world-class talent in Aoki.
"Belt is put on hold. Friday, it’s about me fighting Shinya, me executing a gameplan and me proving that I have the skills and the ability to take him out."
As for Aoki, Friday night's fight is a chance to make history as only the second fighter to hold a ONE world title in two weight divisions.
Much like Askren however, Aoki sees the belt as a bonus of sorts. For the Japanese MMA icon, Friday night's fight is about getting into the cage with someone he considers a legend.
"Yes, Friday night is a title bout, and if I can get a champion’s belt, that would be great," said Aoki. "What I’m really, really looking forward to is that I’m going face a legend in Ben Askren Friday night, and I just want to get a big win against him, and also survive."
For these two men, it's not about wrestling versus judo or jiu-jitsu. It's not about retiring a champion or being two-division titlist. All of that is just outside noise.
For them, it's simply about testing yourself against the best of the best, and on Friday night, in front of a raucous crowd at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, indeed, it's going to be two of the best testing themselves against each other.