Bellator Fighting Championships, coming off its first Oklahoma event of the year, looks to make another splash April 9th with what could be one of their best matchups to date.
Broadcasting live on MTV 2, Bellator heads to First Council Casino in Newkirk with Olympic wrestler/Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner Ben Askren and MMA journeyman Nick Thompson headlining the show.
Both are free spirits with different skill sets. This matchup is interesting on different levels; featuring a slightly inexperienced champion against a seasoned challenger. As a precursor to the bout, OKC.NET has secured some appreciated Q and A time with these highly regarded professional tough guys.
Read below to get to know April 9thâ€™s main event.
Ben â€œFunkyâ€ Askren, Bellator Welterweight Champion
Ben Askren behind the scenes with/vs. Jake Shields
OKC.NET – You came into MMA with a solid wrestling background.Â Since youâ€™ve started fighting in 2009, what aspects of your overall fight game do you feel youâ€™ve improved on the most?
Ben Askren – Striking by far, before I started stand-up training in late 2009 I never did anything like it. Â At least in BJJ. I kind of got the concept.
OKC.NET – How are you more of a complete fighter now compared to then?
Ben Askren – As Charlie Sheen would say, duh.
OKC.NET – I recently watched an interview with Bellator Lightweight Champion, Eddie Alvarez, and he had an interesting comment about his fight with Roger Huerta.Â He said he had to beat Huerta to prove that just because a fighter is from the UFC and heâ€™s popular, it doesnâ€™t necessarily make them a better fighter.Â Now youâ€™re going into a match-up with Nick â€œThe Goatâ€ Thompson, who is, among other things, a UFC veteran.Â Do you feel any added pressure to beat a fighter with his kind of experience and name?
Ben Askren – Zero. I never really cared much for the opinions of others. I know what I am capable of and I should smash Nick.
OKC.NET – What kind of new challenges does Nick present in your upcoming bout?Â
Ben Askren – He is the most experienced fighter that I have ever mixed it up with, but technically I don’t know that he brings anything I haven’t seen before.
OKC.NET – Youâ€™ve been making a name for yourself among the hardcore fans as a fighter to watch.Â Bellator seems to be trying to garner a more mainstream audience this year. How would you describe your style to those who are still unacquainted with they way you fight?
Ben Askren – I am still trying to find my style as a fighter, because of my strong wrestling background I tend to rely on that a lot. Â With time, it will become a more distinct style.
OKC.NET – What can fans expect from your upcoming fight against Thompson?Â Anything funky?
Ben Askren – Complete Domination. Â And probably something funky mixed in.
OKC.NET – I read somewhere that you also compete in disc golf.Â Between disc golf and fighting, which do you enjoy more?Â Â Why?
Ben Askren – Disc Golf, it is a lot easier throwing a Frisbee around than getting punched in the head. I just canâ€™t make a living at it yet.Â
Nick â€œThe Goatâ€ Thompson: UFC, Strikeforce, Sengoku Veteran
Nick “The Goat” Thompson vs. Eddie Alvarez
OKC.NET – Youâ€™ve fought some pretty tough competition in the past; guys like Paul Daley, Jake Shields, Eddie Alvarez and Yushin Okami.Â Among that level of competition where do you rank a guy like Ben Askren?Â What kind of problems does he pose?
Nick Thompson – I am not sure where Ben ranks as compared to the above as he is relatively young and inexperienced.Â That being said, I recognize that Ben, and guys like him, are the future of the sport.Â Ben is not only an Olympic wrestler but also a world jiu-jitsu champion.Â
OKC.NET – Fighters are typically fighting toward a goal.Â And that goal is usually a championship.Â Your upcoming fight with Ben Askren is a non-title fight.Â What are your goals in MMA this year?Â
Nick Thompson – Benâ€™s title means he is the best fighter in Bellator.Â If I beat the guy that is the best fighter in Bellator, that makes me the best fighter in Bellator regardless of who is wearing a piece of leather on which a metal plate is glued.Â My goal is to be the best fighter in Bellator.Â Â Â Â Â
OKC.NET – What can fans expect from you in your fight with Askren?
Nick Thompson – I like being the challenger.Â It motivates me.Â The other times I have been brought in by a promotion and seen as the challenger, be it Alvarez, Daley, etc., I have outworked my opponent and earned victory.Â I donâ€™t know if I will beat Ben, but I know that I am working harder in training camp than I have in a long time.Â
OKC.NET – You donâ€™t have very many decision victories on your record.Â What about your mentality going into a fight causes you to earn so many finishes?
Nick Thompson – It is a fight.Â I donâ€™t want to hug on a guy for 15 minutes and secure a decision.Â I want to hurt him.Â If I see an opportunity to hurt him, I go for it.Â Sometimes this puts me in spots where I would rather not be but, more often than not, it puts my opponent somewhere he definitely does not want to be.
OKC.NET – Youâ€™ve fought for many different fight promotions.Â How has working with Bellator been?
Nick Thompson – Bellator is run by people that have been in the sport a long time.Â They are people who understand fighting and understand fighters.Â Â It is nice fighting for people that both want to put on the best show possible but also want to treat their fighters respectfully.
(c) James Nghiem All rights reserved. Contact James through the email to talk about more Bellator news, relay your feedback, or ask a question!