Askren eager to show he's the real champ in rematch
American fighter Askren wants to prove he's a champion in Friday's megabout
In his own words, you either have what it takes to be a champion or you don't.
ONE Championship welterweight world champion Ben Askren is confident that he will prove to Brazilian Luis Santos - his challenger in the headlining bout for Friday's Pride of Lions - that he is a true champion.
Both fighters meet again at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in an eagerly anticipated rematch, after their fight in April ended controversially.
An accidental eye poke by Askren just two minutes into the bout led to Santos being unable to continue, resulting in a No Contest.
The debate over who would have gone on to win has heightened the tension ahead of Friday's rematch, although the 31-year-old reigning champion dismissed his Brazilian opponent as a mere pretender.
When asked by The New Paper if Santos, 35, has what it takes to dethrone him, American Askren - even before the question was completed - replied: "No, he's not… He's never been a champion.
"You've got to believe in it (that you are a champion) even before you are, and I did.
"When I was a kid, I already knew I was going to be a champion.
"I had a lot of belief in myself, but then it's also the hard work and discipline that got me here.
"He (Santos) has a lot of solid physical attributes and skills, but he's not mentally tough, and one of the things that sets apart the champions from the rest is that they understand adversity and respond well to it.
"In sport, like in life, things are going to get tough sooner or later and you've got to have the right reaction when the tough times come."
While the 1.78m tall and 77kg Askren downplayed his opponent's championship credentials, he admitted that he was relishing the opportunity to put the debate to rest.
"I'm excited because the last one didn't really have a conclusion," said Askren.
"There were two minutes of fighting and then a No Contest, which was hard for me because, every time I've gone into the cage, I've won, so I'm excited to be able to put a stamp on it.
"I definitely want to set the record straight and I've heard people say that he was kicking my butt, but then I know either they're uneducated about Mixed Martial Arts or they just don't like me, so I let that slide.
"That's the best thing to do in a sport like this… You don't listen to the good or the bad but you ignore it all.
"Sometimes, some fighters listen to too many positive reviews and start getting too high on themselves.
"I subscribe to the theory that I'm just going to keep doing what has got me here - being disciplined and to keep executing."
Askren took time off training to meet fans at G-Shock's booth at Bugis Junction yesterday.
He spent over half an hour signing autographs and taking pictures, highlighting the sport's increasing popularity.
Listing Little India and Lau Pa Sat as his favourite food haunts in Singapore, Askren is hoping that his "second home" will bring him plenty of joy on Friday.
"For sure, I hope it will," he said.
"In the last year, I've spent about eight weeks here, so it does feel like my second home... I love Singapore, apart from the heat.
"The cleanliness and safety would be my No. 1 and No. 2 (favourite things).
"I feel really comfortable here, but then it's easy to be comfortable in a place like this."
That’s the best thing to do in a sport like this… You don’t listen to the good or the bad but you ignore it all...
— ONE Championship welterweight champion Ben Askren on ignoring those who thought Luis Santos was kicking his butt in their previous bout, which ended in a No Contest