When Ben Askren was at the University of Missouri, he always dreamed of competing in the Olympics.
Take nothing away from his years spent as a Tiger competing with the best collegiate wrestlers there were, as well as Askren taking home two NCAA National Titles, he had goals that would take him beyond that.
Askren reached for the gold when he joined the U.S. Olympic wrestling team in 2008, competing in Beijing.
Now, Askren is reaching a similar dichotomy in his MMA career. Undefeated as a professional fighter, Askren sits at 8-0 with a fight pending this fall against former UFC and Strikeforce welterweight Jay Hieron.
Still, as much as Askren has loved his time with Bellator, he understands that to reach his ultimate goals, just like in college, he’s likely going to have to head to another promotion to do so.
“Now it’s just a matter of time,” Askren told MMAWeekly Radio about a move to the UFC. “Because since they bought Strikeforce and obviously Pride’s no longer around, or any other viable Asian promotion, I mean that’s it. I’m on the top of Bellator and I’m ranked 15th in the world, and so I think every single person above me is either in the UFC or Strikeforce, which is essentially all UFC.
“It’s just a matter of time.”
Askren has been with Bellator since his fourth professional fight. He entered their welterweight tournament, where he went on to win the title, and then defeated former UFC fighter Nick Thompson in a featured fight.
The former Missouri wrestler has been called one of the brightest prospects to enter the sport in years, and with his wrestling pedigree and continued training with coaches like Duke Roufus, the sky’s the limit.
Bellator has been good to him, according to Askren, but he also understands the glass ceiling he’s going to hit there. His goal isn’t about the biggest paycheck, it’s about being the best.
“I love what Bellator’s doing for me, and I’ve got nothing against that, but my goal is to be the best in the world, and I simply can’t accomplish that in Bellator at this point,” Askren said.
“If I somehow could, I’d be fine to stay in Bellator.”
The toughest part for Askren is that he knows that to get to the top of the welterweight division he needs to face names like Georges St-Pierre, Jake Shields, Jon Fitch, and Josh Koscheck.
All of those roads lead to the UFC.
“Exactly,” Askren answered when asked if a move to the UFC was inevitable. “If I want to accomplish the goals I want to accomplish, then yes.”