Ben Askren will make his overdue return to the cage next week to defend his ONE welterweight championship against Agilan Thani. He doesn't plan on hanging around in there too long, however.
"It's going to be over at the end of the first round," Askren told IBTimes UK ahead of ONE's Dynasty of Heroes card on 26 May. Little else had to be said from the man who has amassed a professional fight record of 15-0 and one no-contest, with the last three of those wins coming fighting under the ONE flagship since he left Bellator in 2013.
That record would surely have been even greater had it not been for some of the more unusual circumstances to befall the fight game. Fights being called off at the eleventh hour are nothing new in any part of the world. Failure to make weight, doping violations and plain old last-minute injuries have seen plenty of huge fights shelved; sudden changes to fight cards or outright cancellations are now sadly just part of the game.
Askren has had his share of that frustration. After his 2015 showdown with Luis Santos was ruled a no-contest after an accidental eye poke, the Brazilian proceeded to dodge a rematch, refusing to fight the 32-year-old American at the 190lbs limit. In slightly more surreal events, his 2016 meeting with Vitaly Bigdash was shelved following the death of the King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej in October, which prompted a period of mourning across the country and forcing ONE to cancel their event. More frustration followed when Bigdash wouldn't agree to reschedule their showdown.
"It's taught me a lesson in patience," Askren said of the period that saw ONE keep him in a holding pattern of sorts. "I've had to be patient for a while. It's been beyond my control, it wasn't my option, and it wasn't my choice. Some things in life are beyond your control and they were and I am just hoping that things change this year.
"I would just never expect for the king of Thailand to affect my fight career. Stuff like that happens though, you can't help it and you just have to find a way to deal with it."
2017 is all about making up for lost time. It starts against Thani on Friday. The 21-year-old Kuala Lumpur native has amassed an undefeated record of his own after seven professional fights, with Askren insisting he already has more respect for his latest challenger than any of those who have spent the last two years trying to avoid him.
But the man they call 'Funky' says he knows exactly what to expect from his opponent.
"Nothing has changed for me over the years," he continued. "My game plan ever since the beginning of my career has been to impose my will and that's what is going to happen in this fight also.
"I am expecting him to come out like a guy that's got nothing to lose. He's going to come out really hard and really fast because he realises if he loses, it's no big deal. Everyone is expecting him to lose. So he is going to take his best shot early, but the fight is going to go my way."
Askren vs Thani is the co-main event of ONE's card at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, which will also see the undefeated Angela Lee defend her atomweight title against Istela Nunes, a two-time Muay Thai world champion.