This past Monday night in New York City, a very special event was held in the world of wrestling. It was Beat the Streets 2019 and in the main event, we saw two of the sports’ all-time greatest competitors square off for the very first time.
On one side, it was the ‘Funky’ undefeated former Bellator and ONE Championship welterweight champion, Ben Askren who has firmly established himself as one of the greatest wrestlers in MMA history.
Across from him stood arguably the greatest American wrestler of all-time, the Olympic gold medalist and multiple time world champion, Jordan Burroughs.
In the end, the match wouldn’t even be competitive as the Sicklerville, New Jersey native would shut out the UFC star 11-0 to get the victory.
Regardless, the fact that the two were even able to make the match happen meant a great amount to the legendary Burroughs. On Thursday, he tweeted out a deep message of gratitude to Askren.
“I was a 19-year-old college sophomore when I met Ben Askren for the first time.
“Fresh off a historic collegiate career, Ben was widely recognized as the best wrestler of his era regardless of weight – he was an icon in a sport lacking big personality. Less than a year after graduating, he made the 2008 Olympic team at 163 pounds, my current weight class.
“Meanwhile I was a 150-pound kid on the USA junior team, sitting on the edge of the mat during Olympic Team practice, hoping to no only pick up some technique, but maybe get to rub shoulders with some Olympians. As I sat in that sweaty wrestling room on those humid summer afternoons watching them prepare for the Games, my Olympic aspirations were born. Little did anyone know that I was going to be the man that would succeed Ben Askren.
“Fast forward more than 10 years to this past Monday night. Both Ben and I walked down the stairs of the 200 selection of the Hulu Theatre heading for the raised mat on a platform in an area we were the headliners.
“Ben, the wrestling icon turned MMA superstar. Me, once just a young matside dreamer turned wrestling superstar. And more than 6,000 fans to watch it all go down.
“Regardless of the result, I knew this year’s Beat the Streets event was going to be epic.
“To Ben – What you and I were able to do Monday night was incredible. Thank you for you willingness to put your reputation, and more importantly your health on the line for the sake of the sport that bread you.
“For a few hours, the wrestling and MMA worlds stood still, and together, and wondered if you’d be able to – as you’ve done many times in the past – shock the world. But instead you got double-legged, more than once. All jokes aside, this match truly wasn’t about winning or losing, but rather supporting young kids in need and growing our sport. Because of your willingness to step toe-to-toe with me, countless new eyes have been drawn to wrestling.
“Something Ben said at Sunday’s press conference that really resonated with me. ‘Stepping up to a challenge doesn’t mean just saying yes when you know you can win,’ he said, ‘but saying yes even when you know that you could get your butt kicked.’
“That’s heart. Respect.”
Askren is set to compete against Jorge Masvidal in a pivotal welterweight contender bout at UFC 239 on July 6.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 5/9/2019