By Adam Hill
Las Vegas Review-Journal
ONE Championship welterweight champion Ben Askren is looking forward to returning to the cage to defend his belt after a bizarre year.
He’s particularly eager to move on from Luis Santos.
Askren, widely considered the best welterweight fighter in the world outside of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, will defend his title against Nikolay Aleksakhin in the main event of the ONE: Global Rivals event at Mall of Asia Arena in Manila on April 15.
The 2008 Olympic wrestler and two-time NCAA champion at Missouri had a strange 2015. Askren’s April bout against Santos ended in a no contest when Santos couldn’t continue after an eye poke in the first round. A potential rematch was scrapped in November when Santos missed weight to nullify the title bout and then, according to ONE officials, refused to accept terms of a second weigh-in.
“I am excited to be fighting since my 2015 was pretty much ruined by one idiot,” Askren told the Review-Journal on Wednesday. “I can’t wait to get back in the cage and get down to business.”
Askren’s last official fight came in a successful title defense Nobutatsu Suzuki in August 2014. The former Bellator MMA welterweight champion is 14-0 in his professional MMA career.
“I look forward to facing Aleksakhin. He has a good record and looks like a tough opponent,” Askren said. “That being said I expect nothing short of domination.”
Askren is 2-0 since signing with ONE Championship in 2014. The four-time All-American at Missouri finished both victories in the first round.
“ONE has been great to me and I am excited to keep helping them grow their brand across Asia and the entire world,” he said.
Aleksakhin submitted Burenzorig Batmunkh in his previous ONE appearance.