Bellator Welterweight champion Ben Askren doesn't care what the fans think about the allegedly boring way he fights.
"I’m never gonna change my style. I am who I am," Askren told the media at a conference call at which Bleacher Report was present.
Askren's style emphasizes wrestling and control. Askren takes his opponent down, and smothers them to the point of extreme exhaustion and frustration. While effective, the style doesn't win the fans over. In fact, it turns them against Askren in droves.
These angry fans often cite the fact that Askren hasn't finished an opponent since 2010 as proof that Askren is a boring point fighter. Askren gave a metaphorical shrug in response to a question about these concerns at the media call.
"I’m not afraid to be that guy," he said. "I’ve had a lot of time since my last fight and I have made serious improvements in a lot of areas. Nevertheless, I’ll never be as good at anything else as I am at wrestling. That’s always been my base. I’m not shy to admit that. And I’m actually proud that I grew up a wrestler."
The Bellator welterweight champ will have a chance at Bellator 86 to put his skills to the test against the challenger to his title: French judoka Karl Amoussou.
Amoussou is on a four-fight winning streak in Bellator and is a talented fighter, but has had conditioning problems in the past. In Askren's opinion, these cardio problems will be Amoussou's undoing.
"From what I’ve watched, Karl has problems with any fight that goes past the first round," he said. "I really hoped he’d have done a little more cardio but after watching, and he has a long history of fighting, I’m not sure that’s gonna be the case."
If Amoussou does come into the fight with poor conditioning, a hustler like Askren will exploit it. This will inevitably lead to the typical Ben Askren fight: A grueling MMA-style wrestling match where Askren dominates his opponent for 25 minutes.
The fans won't be happy. Not at all. When Askren's hand is raised, he'll likely be met by a deluge of boos.
Askren's relationship with the fans is an interesting one. His style upsets the fans but, according to him, the fans only attack him with their vicious verbal barbs because they're trying to get him off his game.
"People want to see me lose for whatever reason, my attitude, my style, I don’t know it is," said Askren. "When I do get on top—and I get on top fast and frequently—they know that the bottom guy has zero chance to escape and zero chance to submit me. So it’s a very boring fight for them because what they want to see is they want to see me lose, but they know it’s not gonna happen in their hearts. They gotta sit there disappointed for 25 minutes because they don’t get to see what they want."
This upcoming Thursday, Jan. 24 at 10 pm, the MMA world will get to see if the fans get what they want. Bellator 86—the promotion's second show on Spike TV —will reveal if Askren will finally be toppled, or if he'll grind his way to yet another victory and title defense.