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Bellator champs: Wrestling is key for Filipino MMA supremacy

When asked what Filipino mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters can improve on to make it into the “big leagues” in the United States, champions from Bellator Fighting Championships (Bellator) pointed to one discipline: wrestling.

“At the end of the day it’s the wrestlers that you see in MMA who are doing best,” said Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler in an interview. “That’s a really good base to have.”

This view is echoed by fellow fighter and Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren who gave reasons why having an amateur wrestling background is a big deal.

“Wrestlers are able to dictate if the fight goes to the ground or stays on the feet, this is a huge advantage,” he said. “Wrestlers are very hard working; I think wrestlers are the hardest working of all combat athletes. No two ways about it, wrestlers are just tough people.”

According to Chandler, Filipinos are already known for their wrestling pedigree but opined to get more training abroad. “If [Filipinos] are able to come to the US or different countries where they can get really good wrestling coaches, they could show fighters the best wrestling techniques.”

“Wrestlers are able to dictate if the fight goes to the ground or stays on the feet … wrestlers are just tough people.”
Ben Askren, Bellator Welterweight Champion

Wrestling is widely considered among MMA circles as the best “base” discipline to have before entering MMA. Unfortunately, many viewers who are new to the sport frown on the grinding pace brought by wrestling-based fighters, especially when the fight hits the ground.

“I disapprove of them not understanding the sport better,” said Askren.

Their advice seems to be paying dividends as both fighters are coming off wins in their divisions early this year, with Chandler defeating Akihiro Gono via technical knockout in May and Ben Askren getting a unanimous decision against Douglas Lima in April.

Chandler is expected to defend his belt against Bellator Season 6 Lightweight Tournament winner and Olympian Rick Hawn.

Bellator is one of the largest tournament-format MMA promotions in the world and ranked second in the US.

Bellator is shown exclusively in the Philippines on KIX, Asia’s home of combat, every Monday at 9 PM on Skycable (Channel 63), Cablelink (Channel 220) and Destiny (Channel 10).

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