At this point in time, Ben Askren is known by most sports fans primarily for representing the United States on that mat at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and his blossoming mixed martial arts career.
In the coming years, however, Askren may also be known for his passion for disc golf—a sport the undefeated Bellator FC welterweight champion began playing several years ago.
“I had a few friends play in high school, and I played a few times,” Askren, 27, recounted. “When I got to college, a bunch of my teammates played and I was hooked.”
“I can't remember my first impression, but I think I was hooked almost right away.”
Although he emphasized that he was passionate about disc golf from the beginning—“one of the best sports on the planet,” he called it—Askren was nevertheless surprised by certain elements of the game.
“I just loved to play, I had no idea it was even an organized sport,” Askren admitted. “I thought it was so funny when I found out there were tourneys, but now I love them.”
Askren, who intends on competing as a professional in the sport in the coming year, has so far achieved a great deal of success in the tournaments he once found laughable.
Over the course of the past year, Askren finished second at the United States Amateur Disc Golf Championship, ninth at the PDGA Amateur Disc Golf World Championships and 14th at the Memorial Championship.
While top-tier competitors can make a decent living from their participation in the sport, Askren insisted that his affinity for disc golf revolves around far more than the prospect of someday getting rich off of his passion for the game.
“There are lots of things I enjoy [about the sport],” Askren noted. “Being outside, playing in the woods, it is very relaxing, good way to spend time with friends, great way to go see new places, love the challenge of throwing a disc exactly where it needs to go.”
While Askren insisted that the enjoyment he gets from disc golf is what keeps him throwing, he nevertheless intends on going as far as he can in the professional ranks of the sport—although he’s unsure exactly where he sees himself in the game in the coming years.
“I would like to achieve a 1000 rating, which means you are a world-class pro,” Askren explained. “I am at 996 right now. My first rating I ever had was 882, so I have come a long way.”
“My one goal after I got serious about disc was to achieve a 1000 rating. Once I accomplish that, I will think about setting new goals.”
Ed Kapp is an Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations were obtained first-hand.