Ben Askren (Photo/ONE Championship)
Is Ben Askren saying goodbye to his pro mixed martial arts career, trading the cage for the executive suite?
The answer is yes, according to the CEO of ONE Championship, the MMA organization where the former Missouri wrestling champ now holds its welterweight title.
Chatri Sityodtong, founder and head of ONE Championship, announced on Facebook that Askren would face Shinya Aoki in late November, concluding with this statement: "Ben has made the decision to retire after this fight to become an executive at ONE ..."
Here's the entire message from Sityodtong:
"I am thrilled to announce two world title fights for ONE Championship: Immortal Pursuit in Singapore on November 24!
Angela Lee (8-0) vs Mei"V.V" Yamaguchi (16-10)
Ben Askren (17-0) vs Shinya Aoki (39-7)
Angela and Mei have agreed to what will arguably be the most anticipated rematch in the history of martial arts in Asia. Also, for the 1st time in ONE history, two athletes from the same team will go to battle for a world title. In what will be a ferocious contest between two great white sharks, Shinya Aoki and Ben Askren have decided to lay it all on the line. Win or lose, this fight will be Ben's last. Ben has made the decision to retire after this fight to become an executive at ONE. You do not want to miss this mega event in Singapore!"
As of early evening Monday, there was no message from Askren on social media ... though he retweeted a tweet from Tim Kennedy which said, "He has always done it his own way.
@BenAskren has made the best look like amateurs. He won at prize fighting. Leaving the sport untouched."
The 33-year-old Askren -- a former Bellator welterweight champ who successfully defended his ONE Championship belt this past weekend -- has crafted a perfect 17-0 record since launching his MMA career in 2009.
The man Askren is slated to face in his final fight -- Aoki -- is an experienced veteran, holding a 39-7-1 professional record, and 5-1 record competing for the ONE Championship organization.
"Aoki is most known for his grappling pedigree, as 25 of his professional victories have come by way of submission," according to LowKickMMA.com. "He's coming off of a loss, but prior to that he had won nine consecutive bouts, and he may very well be able to offer Askren a challenge."
Just a couple days ago, after scoring a TKO on Sweden's Zebaztian Kadestam at 4:06 of the second round at ONE Championship event in Shanghai on Sept. 2, Askren appeared to be calling out would-be challengers ... with no hint of trading his fight shorts for a business suit.
"I haven't got hit one time my last two fights, so someone please come into this cage who can actually hit me," said the Wisconsin native.
"I'm open to a super fight. I'm open to any welterweight on planet Earth. Bring it, baby," Askren added.
Prior to launching his pro MMA career, Askren was a highly accomplished amateur wrestler. He was a four-time NCAA finalist for the University of Missouri, winning titles in 2006 and 2007. Askren earned a place on the U.S. men's freestyle team for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.