First week in Asia
Ben Askren blog part one
When I signed with ONE FC I knew that it would involve a lot of travelling because ONE FC is Asia’s biggest MMA promotion and puts on shows in a different country every month but I doubt I will ever do quite as much travelling as I did this week.
It all started out on Saturday when I flew from Chicago to Vancouver, it was an easy flight and I did a lot of reading. When I got there I intended to check in my bag then head downtown but it was another six hours until the Philippine Airlines ticket counter opened so I ended up sitting in a Starbucks in town with all my luggage.
I couldn’t find anywhere to watch Erik’s fight so I headed back to the airport, I’ve been to Vancouver three times and it’s an awesome city, I like it a lot. The flight left at 11:45pm which was 1:45am Milwaukee time so I took some NyQuil PM and crashed for nine hours. I woke up to find out it was only a 12 hour flight when I’d thought it would last 14 hours so that made me happy and I read a book until we landed in Manila.
I landed in Manila at local time on Monday, there were more bags at the baggage check then I had ever seen in my life and by the time I got outside it was around 3:45am and it was insane, so many people there it was like a party, also hot as shit even though it was the middle of the night.
10:30am we went to the public workout, the gym didn’t have AC so it was like 90 degrees and 90% humidity but the press was huge, I’ve never fought MMA outside of the US before but there was a big scrum of photographers and photographers and everyone wanted to know about my ONE FC debut, this is the first time I’ve experienced this much buzz around a fight and I’m not even fighting in the Philippines!
I sparred with Heath Sims who is the head coach at Evolve MMA which is where I train when I am in Asia, answered a lot of questions and got out of there. We went straight from the gym to the airport and I stood in line with no AC for 90 minutes total sweating my butt off and then the plane to Malaysia sat on the runway for one hour for no apparent reason.
We landed in Kuala Lumpur which for some reason has two airports built right next to each other that are both an hour outside of the actual city. I had people coming up to me and asking to get photos taken which was a surprise, made me think ONE FC is even bigger than I realized because I haven’t even fought for them yet and I’ve still got strangers coming up to me and asking me about ONE FC.
By the time we got to the hotel it was midnight and after trying and failing to get on the internet I went straight to sleep. We headed out to a gym in Kuala Lumpur and again the press turnout was insane and me and Heath worked out again and posed for more photos and answered a bunch of questions, people are really interested in my wrestling background and I can’t wait to give them a live demonstration in the ONE FC cage later this month.
I got to see Petronas towers before we headed to the airport and took some pics, there is a Starbucks every 50 metres in Malaysia, definitely my kind of country! We landed in Jakarta later that day, the hotel checked underneath out taxi for bombs and then me and Heath grabbed some food with Loren Mack from ONE FC and I went to bed.
Jakarta is so overcrowded the streets are PACKED all the time so we had to leave early to make sure we would arrive on time. Poverty was bad and the traffic is indescribable, I don’t know how they drive around so lawlessly and still manage to avoid accidents.
The media workout was good, again the place was packed and there’s a ONE FC show coming up in Jakarta soon which everyone was excited about. We went to a nice place for lunch because Loren lived in Jakarta for two years so he knew where to take us and then took forever to get back to the airport because of the traffic.
Next day was Cambodia but there aren’t many direct flights there so we had to fly to Singapore and then spend the night in a hotel at the airport. At 6:50 on Thursday morning we took a flight to Phnom Penh which was like going back in time because it is so far behind all the other countries I visited in terms of the building and infrastructure.
If you’d told me a few months ago that I was a big name in Cambodia I’d have laughed at you but there at least 30 journalists showed up there, ONE FC is shown live on TV there and is very popular. There wasn’t really a proper gym and they had to bring in a load of mats for me and Heath to do our workout.
That night we got a flight back to Singapore which is like my home away from home in Asia. I’ve trained at Evolve MMA in the past, it’s an unbelievable facility with an amazing number of different trainers and fighters and I learn a lot every time I train there.
I will be representing Evolve MMA on May 30th and between now and then I’m going to be training every day with Heath and the fight team so the last media session was the easiest of them all because it was at Evolve on Friday morning.
I’m excited to be fighting for a promotion which is big in so many different countries, one of the attractions of ONE FC was that I would get to travel and fight in places where I’d never been before but after a week like that it’s nice to be able to chill out and settle down in Singapore.
Now I’m looking forward to spending two weeks working with all the Muay Thai world champions and boxing world champions and BJJ black belts at Evolve MMA.
I’m happy for you, Ben. Spent some time in Goldberg’s (RIP) luxury box with you after you went out with that knee in the 2002 WIAA state finals (they had a problem with your banner, afterwards, if you remember.) You performed amazingly on your one leg, and I’d seen you wrestle before at full strength as a complete beast with a style nobody had ever seen before at that point. Best of luck in all of your fights, and I’m happy to see the success you and your brother have achieved.