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Ben Askren says Luis Santos was playing up eye injury, wants rematch 'as soon as possible'

ONE Championship

Ben Askren flew all the way to the Philippines. He was hoping to fight for more than just two minutes or, at the very least, have a clear outcome.

Askren's ONE Championship welterweight title defense against Luis Santos ended in a no contest last Friday in Manila when Askren accidentally poked Santos in the eye at 2:19 of the first round. Santos was unable to continue, leaving pretty much everyone in the Mall of Asia Arena feeling unsatisfied.

"I felt like I poked him, but it felt like just a little poke," Askren told "It wasn't like my finger went deep in his eye or anything.

"I was very frustrated by that situation, because I think he was playing it up and really playing like he didn't understand English. I know he does."

Askren (14-0, 1 NC) wants a rematch with Santos as quickly as possible. The former Bellator welterweight champ is hoping to headline ONE's June card, which has yet to be officially announced.

For the first time during his ONE run, Askren was pushed a bit by Santos. The Brazilian was doing quite well, stuffing Askren's takedown attempts and gaining dominant positions on the ground. Askren was shooting for sloppy low singles and was paying for it. But "Funky" said it was all part of the plan.

"The scouting report that I got on him is that he's really strong for three minutes and then he fades," Askren said. "So my plan going into the fight was to put pressure on him, don't let him land anything big and just keep moving forward.

"One of my best qualities is my persistence. I'm just gonna keep coming at you like a f*cking honey badger until I get what I want or you beat me. But I'm gonna keep coming for the entire time."

Askren, 30, said he was already starting to feel Santos wilt and he expects to finish him late in the first round and or early in the second in the next fight. However, the Roufusport product does acknowledge that "Sapo" was doing a solid job over the first two-minutes-and-change of the fight.

"I was almost enjoying the fact that he was giving me some resistance, because my last handful of opponents haven't really given me any resistance," Askren said. "So I was kind of liking the fact that I was in a little bit of a fight."

In Askren's mind, the rematch could be a big one. At least in the United States, Askren is ONE's biggest star. He's also pound-for-pound the organization's best talent. So, it was unexpected to see him losing during a fight, even if it was just for a minute or two. Askren steamrolled his previous two ONE opponents, Bakhtiyar Abbasov and Nobutatsu Suzuki, in the first round.

"If they promote it correctly, it's going to be one of the biggest fights they've ever done," Askren said of the Santos rematch.

And he plans on seeing it through next time.

"I was feeling the pendulum start to swing my way and I thought I was going to start kicking his ass, but I didn't get a chance to prove that," Askren said. "Hopefully I will soon."

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