Ladies and Gentlemen I come to you today after the news broke that my all-time favorite fighter is back in the fight game…and I’m cringing. I have followed Ben Askren since his collegiate wrestling days, the days of “funky” wrestling, and then even when he made the Olympics.
When Ben signed on to the still somewhat new Bellator Fighting Championship, I was excited and had every right to be. At the time, all my favorite MMA fighters were great collegiate wrestlers, Chael Sonnen, Randy Couture, and Dan Henderson. So the addition of Ben Askren was something I was looking forward to, and Ben did not disappoint by beating Lymon Good for the welterweight championship, winning the Bellator welterweight tourney, and then destroying some of the best strikers in the business such as Douglas Lima and Andrey Koreshkov. The ballot was in, Ben Askren was legit, the real deal, and it would appear that he was UFC bound.
Fate didn’t see it that way as Askren and UFC brass (Dana White) appeared to have real falling out and before you knew it Askren had already signed his release from Bellator and was now out of a job. I was devastated, I was looking forward to seeing Askren fighting the likes of GSP, and the rest of the upper echelon of the UFC welterweight division, and now it would appear as if all hope was lost for MY dream fights. Then Ben went silent, and before you knew it he was on his way to Asia to fight for ONE FC. Even being a huge MMA fan, I had not watched any ONE FC fights nor followed anyone from the division.
Askren signed with ONE FC on December 9 2013, and the first thing that I noticed with the welterweight division was that instead of like here where welterweights are 170 in the UFC and American MMA, there it was 180 pounds. Second, I noticed the fact that the other fighters were huge guys, ripped to the gills (watch the fight with Russia’s Nikolay Aleksahkin) and the fighters looked like they were wearing a Batman bodysuit. Regardless, he beat the best that ONE FC had to offer, winning six of seven, with one being a no contest. Even with his final fight he fought MMA royalty and made quick work of Shinya Aoki, knocking him out in the first round and then retired. But he left open the idea that if he ever got the opportunity to face the very best in the world (UFC), that the door would always be open. But it appeared as if Ben Askren legitimately retired from the sport from MMA.
Before you knew it Ben was part of one of the first big fighter trades in the sport of MMA. Ben Askren was sent to the UFC and Demetrious Johnson came in return to ONE FC. Look, we all know what happened to Ben in the UFC, First, a questionable win against Robbie Lawler. Personally I think Ben won that fight, even if Robbie didn’t tap it would not have been long with Ben having complete ground control. Then the Masvidal knee, which became one of the most popular memes of all time. Then the loss to Demain Maia in Singapore, which in my opinion was a very entertaining fight where Askren showed good standup and did roll around with a B.J.J ace for three rounds until he got tapped by a rear naked choke. Then that was it, just like that Askren had retired from the sport…again.
At this point he was 35 years old, had a bad hip, and was on a two fight losing streak in the UFC. By all admissions the loss to Masvidal essentially tarnished Ben’s career. People forget about all the wins, the streak and championships he won, and in my eyes he will never get the props he deserves as a legitimate legend in MMA. If they didn’t want to give props to Askren before, I hate to say that now Ben has lost all credibility by taking a boxing match against YouTube sensation Jake Paul. I want to be the first one to say the thought of Askren in a boxing match makes me cringe. Ben has a lot going on in life that’s positive, Podcasts, he coaches at Academies that he owns, and apparently is making a killing by investing in BitCoin. So for him to take this fight against a YouTube actor makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to me…except with one simple fact, HE’S MAKING A LOT OF MONEY.
People please look at your own careers and lives and point the finger there. On Ariel Helwani’s podcast Ben stated he’s making more for this fight than he ever made in any one single fight. So what exactly is he doing wrong? If you actually look at legitimate facts this is actually a very favorable fight for Ben. Olympic level athlete against a YouTube actor who happened to box two other people who had never had any fight experience? But aside from that, yes I don’t like Ben taking this fight, not at all, but how can anyone blame him? The MMA community already doesn’t give Ben the credit he deserves anyways, they’re always bringing up the Masvidal loss almost a year and a half later. MMA fans never forget unless it benefits them to forget, so what exactly does Ben stand to lose if he doesn’t get the victory? The answer is he loses absolutely nothing and gains the biggest payday of his life.
So, kudos to Ben Askren for taking a boxing match against a guy who has never actually fought a legitimate fighter, and making a boat load of cash for his efforts, go get him Ben!!