In the final months of this year, mixed martial arts fans in Asia are set to have two massive treats with a duo of world championship fights coming up back-to-back.
The long-awaited rematch between Ben Askren and Luis Santos, dubbed #AskrenSantos2, is set to take place in Singapore on 13 November at ONE: PRIDE OF LIONS.
Immediately after, two of best heavyweights that have ever stepped into the ONE cage, Brandon Vera and Chi Lewis Parry, will duke it out on 11 December for the inaugural Heavyweight title at ONE: SPIRIT OF CHAMPIONS.
The Askren-Santos rematch was born after a controversial eye-poke by Askren ended the fight abruptly in Manila earlier this year.
Now, a polarised army of fans will have their wishes granted as the two arch-enemies take to the cage again to settle the score.
“What happened in Manila was the first time in my whole career that I didn’t go in the cage and beat the tar out of my opponent and get my hand raised. When I was in Manila in April, I planned on fighting untill one of us couldn’t fight anymore. That’s what I plan to do on 14 November,” Askren said in a video interview.
The American star, who claimed the ONE title in the promotion’s Dubai event last year said remaining the champion in ONE is his number one priority and that ONE Championship’s market share in Asia is phenomenal for the sport.
“When I’m over in Singapore people stop me on the street and say ‘hey you’re Ben Askren!’ It feels really weird because I’m over in a foreign land where I don’t feel like anyone should know me but they have such a huge distribution. Their (ONE) goal is to sign the best fighters in the world and when they signed me they got a top 10 guy everybody was talking about.”
While Santos could not be reached for comment, the Brazilian star with more than 70 professional fights under his belt, has made it clear in previous interviews that he was unimpressed by Askren and just needed more time to finish him in their first bout.
Filipino-American Vera entered the Asian MMA with his eyes set on gold from the very start. In December, he will finally have the chance to prove that he is the best Heavyweight under the promotion’s banner as he takes on the imposing Parry.
“Coming back to fight in the Philippines for the first time last year was a dream come through for me. The home crowd was amazing and I love nothing more than to do battle in front of my kabayans (Filipino for brothers),” said Vera.
“11 December is a special and historic date for me. Not only will I be back at home fighting in the biggest stadium in the Philippines, but I will also be fighting for the belt that I’ve been focused on for so long. Thank you Victor Cui, thank you ONE Championship and thank you most of all, my fans in the Philippines and around the world. You guys will not be disappointed.”
Vera will still have to get past the knockout power of ex-basketball star Parry who has demolished a series of opponents in a row with his 6’7” frame. Though the underdog going into this fight, Parry said he is more motivated than ever to prove that Vera’s time has past.
“I’m going to usher in a new era for the heavyweight division in ONE Championship. I have full respect for what my opponent has done for the sport of MMA, but let’s face it, his time is past. When I knock him out on 11 December to take the belt, you’ll see what I mean,” the Englishman said.
More bouts for both cards will be released in coming weeks.