Former UFC welterweight contender Ben Askren has reflected on the close of his combat sports career.
‘Funky’ initially retired from MMA back in 2017, following a title defense against Shinya Aoki. Askren defeated the jiu-jitsu ace by first-round stoppage and hung up the gloves for good. However, he noted that he would return to the sport if he could fight in the UFC.
The following year, he got his wish, as he was traded from ONE Championship to the UFC in exchange for Demetrious Johnson. With hopes of becoming UFC champion, Askren jumped at the opportunity. In March 2019, he submitted Robbie Lawler in his promotional debut.
Following that victory, Ben Askren faced Jorge Masvidal that summer at UFC 239. In one of the most stunning moments in the history of the sport, ‘Gamebred’ won by flying knockout in the opening seconds. That defeat was an agonizing one for Askren, as he retired later that year following a subsequent loss to Demian Maia.
In April 2021, he made his boxing debut against Jake Paul, losing by first-round knockout. As Askren put it in an interview with Sports Illustrated, the fight was a gamble that backfired. In the interview promoting his upcoming book, he also reflected on the defeat to Masvidal, as well as the end of his MMA career.
“That loss, it’s obviously not ideal,” says Askren. “But it happened. I don’t let it consume me. I was undefeated, I was kept out of the UFC by Dana White, and I finally broke in. All I had to do was beat Jorge Masvidal to get a title shot. And I totally messed it up.” (h/t Sports Illustrated)
“…The unfortunate reality of the situation is Jake Paul was a much better boxer than I anticipated,” says Askren. “I was coming off the hip surgery, I was so fat, and I was just getting back into shape.
“There were very few moments in my career when I wasn’t pursuing a takedown. That was my strategy. Boxing was never my forte. I was hoping he sucked, I thought he’d hit me, it wouldn’t hurt, he’d gas out, and I’d beat him up. I gambled wrong on that one.”
While Ben Askren is happy in retirement, he’s admitted that could change. Over the last year, he’s teased a possible rematch with Jorge Masvidal, and a fight in the cage with Jake Paul in the PFL.