Ben Askren is in a new weight class where he remains the champion. Now, he has his next contender.
Askren will defend his title against Nikolay Aleksakhin at ONE: Global Rivals on April 15 in Manila, ONE Championship officials confirmed with MMA Fighting on Wednesday. The Las Vegas Review-Journal was the first to report the news.
Askren (14-0, 1 NC) is the ONE welterweight champion, as he has been. But the promotion's weight limits have all been moved up one a class, so Askren will fight Aleksakhin at 185 pounds. The former Olympic wrestler has competed for major MMA organizations solely at 170 until now. ONE is now encouraging fighters to compete a close to their natural, walk-around weight as possible.
Last year was an odd one for Askren. He fought to a no contest with Luis Santos in April 2015 after Santos could not continue due to an eye poke. The two were supposed to lock horns again in November, but Santos failed to make weight. The chances of the two fighting again are slim with ONE's new, strict weight rules.
Askren, 31, is arguably the best fighter in the world outside of the UFC. He is the former Bellator welterweight champ and remains undefeated. Askren is 2-0 under the ONE banner with two first-round finishes.
Aleksakhin (16-3) has won six in a row, four via finish. The Russia native won his ONE debut, beating Burenzorig Batmunkh via third-round submission in November.
ONE: Global Rivals will be the 40th event put on by the Asian promotion since its inception in 2011.