by:  Jack Bratcher

Add Ben Askren as the next Olympian to make the move to mixed martial arts.  Now training with American Top Team, he is expected to make his official debut in early 2009.

The University of Missouri alumnus was a four-time All-American and two-time NCAA wrestling champion, ending his collegiate career with 87 straight wins and back-to-back undefeated seasons.

During his time at Missouri, Askren began taking jiu-jitsu and considered competing in MMA however, after winning his division at the U.S. Olympic Trials he found himself in the Beijing Olympics where he advanced to the quarterfinals.

“Obviously his pedigree and his base is tremendous,” said American Top Team general manager Richie Guerriero. “Not only his wrestling base, but his work ethic, his history of competition and mental mindset. He brings more than just a wrestling base to the sport. It’s not something you can teach. He’s been a competitive athlete since a kid, and the mental aspect is a big part of the sport of MMA.”

ATT has an affiliate school in Columbia, Missouri where Askren got his introduction to MMA by helping their fighters with wrestling skills in exchange for jiu-jitsu lessons.  Since then, Askren has progressed to the level of purple belt in jiu-jitsu and has become the official wrestling instructor at ATT-Columbia.

Askren will develop his MMA game by training at ATT-Columbia but also taking advantage of ATT’s main academy in Cocunut Creek, Florida and their world class instructors, including Olympic boxing champion Howard Davis.

Ben Askren’s MMA debut will most likely be with a small, regional organization in 2009.

Along with Japanese judo gold medalist, Satoshi Ishii, Askren is the second major Olympian to announce their transition into professional MMA in the last week.

Props – NBC Sports

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