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Askren, Aleksakhin exchange verbal shots in pre-match face-off

Ivan Saldajeno
By Ivan Saldajeno

PARAÑAQUE--The One: Global Rivals pre-fight presser at the City of Dreams Grand Ballroom on Thursday was primarily intended to announce One Championship's Philippine TV deal with ABSCBN.

The protagonists in Friday night's main event, however, stole the show.

Unbeaten One welterweight champion Ben Askren and challenger Nikolay Aleksakhin threw some barbs at each other a day before what would now be a much-anticipated affair at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The verbal tussle began when the American holder reacted to a video statement by his Russian foe calling him "boring", saying that he did not have a quality opponent prior to him.

[Related Story: Aleksakhin finds Askren "boring"]

The exchanges continued to the open forum with various media people and fans and even spilled to the photo-ops, where the two stared for a long time before One president Victor Cui stepped in to separate the two fighters.

Asked for a reaction by Dugout Philippines regarding the verbal tussle, Aleksakhin said, "Askren is a very funny guy, but I understand his words. We'll see tomorrow."

Askren, in a separate interview with Dugout Philippines, reacted, "I'm glad he appreciates my humor.... I'm gonna kick his butt so he can see who's better."

Known for their ground game, both Askren and Aleksakhin believe a stand-up stoppage is possible in their showdown.

"I'm gonna knock him hard and out," the challenger vowed.

"Whether it's [via] submission or TKO, I'm gonna be on top of him and beat him up," the belt owner rebutted.

Both fighters figure out in the featured fight of a ten-match schedule in the MMA event that will kick off a spectacular year in Philippine sports that will feature two major international e-sports tournaments, one set to take place a week later, and the much-awaited FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

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