Former Bellator Champ Ben Askren Contemplated Retirement Before Signing with ONE FC

January 8, 2014
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Ben Askren-Bellator-478x270Ben Askren is in danger of becoming one of the most polarizing figures in mixed martial arts. There is no doubt that he is a top ten welterweight, but some are adamant he would run through absolutely everyone in the 170-pound division, while others would have you believe he has never beaten anyone of note.

The latter argument seems deliberately disingenuous, but the subject of exactly where Askren belongs in the upper echelons of the MMA hierarchy is set to provoke some of the most intensive debate of the next two years after his decision to sign with ONE FC.

The UFC has come under some intense criticism after neglecting to offer a contract to the unbeaten former Bellator welterweight champion with fans unable to comprehend why Askren was deemed unworthy of a place on a roster which undeniably contains some far inferior fighters.

Georges St-Pierre’s decision to retire has only intensified the spotlight on Askren. There are parallels to the situation that existed prior to the Zuffa acquisition of Pride when comparisons between Fedor Emelianenko and the UFC heavyweights made for some of the most contentious discussions of the day.

The difference is that, whereas Fedor’s management made a UFC deal all but impossible, Askren did everything in his power to test himself against top contenders like Johnny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler and is adamant that he would have more than held his own.

“I wasn’t afforded the opportunity to compete with the best guys in the world, but that does not mean I am not one of them.  I would feel confident stepping into the cage against any welterweight on the planet,” he said.

Rather than focus on what could, and probably should, have been, the two-time NCAA Division One champion prefers to look ahead to what life will be like after having signed a lucrative six-fight, two-year deal with Asia’s biggest MMA organization.

The terms of the contract seem to guarantee Askren will be active, which hadn’t always been the case with Bellator where his dominance in the welterweight division was such that suitable opponents were hard to come by.

After fighting twice in 2013 and only once in 2012, Askren plans to fight much more frequently now that he has signed with ONE FC.

“I don’t know when my first fight will be. I am thinking March or April, and yes I am looking forward to being significantly more busy,” he said.

During his MMA career, Askren has never previously competed outside of the U.S. and says that this was another incentive to choose ONE FC despite having a WSOF offer on the table.

“My wife and I love to travel. We loved our trip to Singapore and Thailand in 2012 and we are looking forward to travel to a bunch of awesome places with ONE FC.  I know they are already the biggest in Asia and the bigger the stage the more I love it; I flat out love to compete and the bigger the better.”

Askren has been touted as a boring fighter, but is currently coming off back-to-back stoppage wins in title fights. To put that into perspective, St-Pierre hasn’t finished an opponent in almost four years and the 29-year-old former Olympian believes he is becoming more clinical as his MMA career progresses.

“It just took me a while to figure out how to do damage. People always forget I won the Bellator title after only one and a half years of fighting.  I was fighting on a big stage without the appropriate skills and relying heavily on my wrestling,” he said.

Askren says he would be willing to look at the possibility of moving either up or down in weight, but wants to clear out ONE FC’s 170-pound division first. There is no indication yet as to who his first opponent will be, but he already knows where he will be preparing for the fight.

“I am going to finish all my fight camps at Evolve MMA in Singapore. I visited last year and it’s an awesome facility with a great team and it will be an awesome base for me to get acclimated before my fights,” he said.

It has been an emotional year for Askren with back-to-back stoppage wins, the Bellator release, and then an inexplicable UFC snub. The last few weeks in particular have had their ups and downs and he admits to having contemplated retirement, but he is not quite ready to close the curtain on his MMA career.

“I definitely thought about it, but the ONE FC offer was just too amazing and I decided I wasn’t done with my career yet.”

As well as the two NCAA Division One titles, Askren has also won the Pan American Championships and United States Championships in freestyle wrestling and the 2009 World Championships in No Gi grappling. He’s already one of the most decorated athletes in the sport and looks odds-on to add the ONE FC 170-pound title to the Bellator belt he won and successfully defended four times.

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  • Texas Beast

    No, he didn’t. Yes, he’s a one trick pony. He can develop a better skill set but he chooses not to. It can be done. Koscheck is a perfect example. Learned how to strike with mixing in wrestling. Hendricks, story, ellenberger are all wrestlers who adapted. Sad that he doesn’t want or feels like he might get KO’d.

    • http://www.CombatScienceMMA.com/ CombatScienceMMA

      He works with Duke Rufus so I’m sure he’s been working his striking on a daily basis. He’ll strike if he has to or can’t get the take down. I don’t see why he should change his strategy if he’s winning using his biggest strength. It’s MMA which means you can use whatever discipline you want. He’s not going to get into a kickboxing match with a kickboxer just to show he’s been working on his striking. Josh Koscheck is the fight I really want to see this kid get. But UFC doesn’t want him so I guess that won’t be happening anytime soon.

    • Milosc

      Striking is only one discipline. I like that people fight differently

      When a man is willing to risk his life, he should do as he pleases. We all have different personalities and way we do things, and I think this only makes the competition that more interesting

      Stalling is bad, inactivity is bad, but ground-fighting is just another way to hurt people. I see no preference worth screwing with the larger picture

      Just enjoy the fight

      • earlsimmons

        “willing to risk his life” LULULULULUL.

        • Milosc

          You ever have a serious spine injury? Brain impairment?

          Not everyone ‘can’ help the Military Industrial Complex install a central bank in Babylon, chief

          Forrest Griffin can barely hold an umbrella with his right arm these days, btw. It isn’t COD15 out there

    • fsunoles10

      correction, kos learned how to throw a right hay maker. all he does is throw that right over and over, not really what i would call learning to strike.

      • Aimed With “V”

        Funny, because I remember him kicking all right.

        • fsunoles10

          show me a fight where he mixes up his striking buddy. he throws the same right hand over and over, please show me any video that shows he has a variety when it comes to striking.

          • Aimed With “V”

            His fights with Yoshida? Hazelett? Even Hendricks.

          • fsunoles10

            i clearly remember him throwing that right hand over and over during the hendricks fight, yoshida? you mean the fight where he knocked dude out with 2 strait right hands? hazelett was the same thing, pawing that left and throwing a right hay maker. the haymaker is what rocked hazelett the head kick didnt do much but knock him down after being knocked off balance by the right hand. im sorry bro but his striking isnt what you would call advanced by any means.

          • fsunoles10

            not 2 strait right hands as strait punches but consecutive punches.

      • Gary Fredericks

        Nobody claimed Kos is the BEST striker by any stretch, but he is far from the worst in the WW division. Kos uses very basic kickboxing/boxing technique to good effect. For a wrestler to crossover to MMA and pick up striking as fast as Kos did, and use it better than some so called strikers do, that’s pretty impressive. Kos uses jabs and straight punching and rear leg round house kicking very well. His footwork is not bad either nor is his head movement. He blends it into his wrestling without trying to replace what got him fed.

  • otterbox90

    With the muay thai expertise at Evolve MMA, he should be able to improve on his stand-up a lot. We can’t blame him for turning to his biggest strength during a fight situation. Signing with One FC might seem to be a bad career move for him, but he gets to train with the best in stand-up fighting. Maybe when he gets more comfortable mixing things up in his fights, it’s not too late for him to fight in the UFC in the future. Not to mention, One FC should be paying him pretty well also.

  • Aimed With “V”

    One FC can give him Brock Larson.
    That would be the best wrestler that competed on their roster, and he can make 170.

  • Alex

    “I wasn’t afforded the opportunity to compete with the best guys in the world, but that does not mean I am not one of them”

    – No Ben, it doesn’t mean that you ARE one of the best guys.
    You had done nothing to prove it, and when the UFC has given you the chance to prove your so-called “top” status (which you doesn’t deserve because you have never fought a top fighter) you refused and went to an easy Asian money instead.

    Good luck with beating worse cans that even Bellator couldn’t offer you, hope you don’t break a sweat.

    • fsunoles10

      when exactly did the ufc give him a chance? regardless of what your bias is that dude is an olympic wrestler, that shit means something. he might not have been fighting top tier talent in bellator but he did what he was suppose to do in those fights you cant penalize him for that, you cant call him the top fighter at 170 but you damn sure can call him a top tier fighter at 170. he would step into the ufc and in my opinion be the top wrestler in that division and like i said his wrestling is so high level there isnt a reason to believe his wrestling wont work.

      • Alex

        oh, his wrestling is so high level?
        Well, let me enlighten you a bit – Yoel Romero’s credentials are on a higher level than Askren’s (he actually GOT some Olympic medals, unlike Ben) and he STILL was unable to take Feijao down and got taken down by Ronny Markes.

        When you, the real biased Anti-Zuffa monkeys, will understand that pre-MMA credentials don’t mean shit until you’re able to adapt them right in the cage.
        Askren was able to put some guys on their backs – but those guys were also taken down by others, with much worse credentials. And he couldn’t put Hieron on his back, 3 rounds out of 5.
        Yep, ladies and gents, that what happens, when Askren meets someone with actual MMA-wrestling.

        No one penalizes Askren. He has been given a chance to increase his level of competition in WSOF – and he ducked.
        UFC doesn’t have to bring him – like they didn’t have to keep Fitch or Okami.
        His problems, his choice, his loss.

        • fsunoles10

          good job bud you compared apples to oranges and didnt discredit anything i said and then went on to attack me because i disagreed with you like the pathetic idiot you are which im not surprised because thats the liberal defense mechanism. you lost the last little shred of creditability when you said im anti zuffa and all this like im a part of a conspiracy theory or something, if you got on here often you would realize that i post here quite often and never have i showed a bias thought process like you obviously have, regardless of what i like if i believe something im not gonna try and talk myself out of what i think simply because i like something, perfect example is when chael and evans fought and im a huge sonnen fan but i didnt see much chance of him winning that fight which i stated on here around that time despite me being a big fan of his. you’re just another idiot that thinks in terms of “team left and team right” and if somebody disagrees with you you lash out at them because you’re another sheeple that wants everybody to fall in line with what you think. well you idiot thats not how the world works and thats not how the normal persons mind works, if anybody here is the sheeple it is you. good job moron.

          • Alex

            What?
            What was that, one sentence?

            Write it the way grown up people write, using sentences, paragraphs and a right orthography.
            Then, maybe, I’ll care to read your rubbish.

            (Damn, why all the Zuffa haters are illiterate?)

          • fsunoles10

            hah again you cant discredit anything i said so you just ignore it like the panzy you are. and you do realize the comma and period button is right next to each other right? did a typo ever cross your mind? prolly not but again you’re an idiot, please explain how im anti zuffa moron.

  • Guest

    Ben Askren sucks! No more wrestlers in the UFC…no more dry humping opponents for 3 rounds.

    • TheCerealKiller

      Do you remember a guy named Chuck Liddell? He had no problem beating wrestlers.

      • Gary Fredericks

        Chuck Liddell WAS a wrestler ironically.

  • Mark McDowall

    Is Askren a great wrestler…yes. Is he a complete mixed martial artist that can compete with the top 5 guys in the world…I don’t think so. Could he put some time in in OneFC and the gym and evolve his skill set to be more well rounded…yes. Look at a guy like Josh Koschek…he was very similar to Askren and grew his skills to become alot better. I think Askren would come in and fight some top guys in the UFC and get worked…it would be very bad for his career to come in and get his ass handed to him by complete mixed martial artists like Condit, McDonald, GSP etc etc.

    • Me

      So your saying because you don’t think he could beat Condit, McDonald and GSP that he shouldn’t be in the UFC? Then I imagine you think 90% of Zuffa’s roster shouldn’t be competing in the UFC either
      …and he’d dominate Condit by the way.

      • Alex

        He doesn’t HAVE to be in the UFC.
        Not a nesessary product.
        Personally I have no problem to see him fight guys like Mike Pierce or Mike Pyle in the undercard – however, it’s not a must have, and he doesn’t deserve anything more.

        P.S. Condit will sweep him and beat him up from the top position, just like he did to Dong Hyun Kim.

        • Me

          If you think kim is even remotely as accomplished or capable a grappler as askren than you don’t know askren at all – As easily as a gassed hendricks controlled condit askren would do it 10X more easily

      • Mark McDowall

        I don’t think at this moment in time…because of his very limited skill set he could beat the majority of the top 10 in the UFC. Could that change after a while in OneFC..hopefully but we will see.

        And because the UFC is a business…and Askren wants top money…and chances are he wont be very competitive with the top guys…theres no point in wasting the money right now.

        • Me

          Askren is a better grappler than shields and maia – If a fighter can stuff his td’s and avoid the top control than good on them but the number of ww’s on the planet that could perform the feat are far and few between.

          And that’s a myth about the money. He was never offered a deal so neither you nor anyone else know how much he would have required – However it’s clear his desire to compete within the UFC would have mitigated the amount needed to get him there – And a 3 or even 2 fight deal to see how he stacked up would have been feasible as well – None of those possibilities were even put on the table – The very fact that even you admit he could beat some of the top 10 (just not the majority – and I disagree with that but whatever) only adds to the argument that he belongs in UFC – Finally, Askren would be a huge draw on any card – Every discussion of his abilities or personality garners tons of responses in forum threads and gets people talking – He has Sonnen-like abilities to attract reactions and fans would want to see back up the talk or get his ass kicked

    • Milosc

      Why does he have to be a top 5 guy to be in the UFC? What is it [exactly] that makes him so special he gets passed over for lesser competitors?

      The guy is being thrown under a bus

  • TheCerealKiller

    If Bjorn would shut his goddamn mouth and stop calling Ben “Bellators champ”, he might have got in. Dana is not going to bring him in with the Bellator monkey publicly stating all the time that he’s Bellators champ. I’m not a fan, but I want him in the UFC.

    • Alex

      It has nothing to do with the fact, that Askren is Bellator champ.
      If Alvarez or Dantas wish to come to the UFC after their contract is up, they would be welcomed with the open arms.

      It has something to do though with some other facts – unlike these two, Askren is:
      1. Overrated;
      2. Boring;
      3. Has an infantile attidude.

      • Wolf Ticket

        How can you tell that an undefeated fighter is overrated? He may not be as good, but he definitely deserves a shot.

        • Raver Stackton

          You clearly haven’t watched Askren’s fights. Watch at least 4 of them and then come back with a true rating…

  • Stephen Quadros

    Sounds like Ben Askren wrote this article himself.

    • Shakir Hanifa

      lol AGREED

    • Me

      Actually it sounds like an article written an author who knows what he’s talking about.

  • Shakir Hanifa

    YAWN!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • brad king

    Playing with the big boys is a whole different story. One day he may earn himself a shot until then keep the chin up. Any top ten guy would totally destroy him. He be lucky to survive the first round,

    • Gray Rock MMA

      I think you mean Chin Down, but you wouldnt know that if you dont fight.

      • brad king

        what kinda drugs u on son? you better reread it and enroll in school

  • Maddawgmar

    I wouldn’t pay money to see him fight. If I wanted to see someone wet blanket a guy for five rounds, I’d soak my comforters and throw them on a homeless guy.

    • David Huenecke

      So youre a marine, whos supposed to protect people, yet you would throw a wet blanket on a homeless person in the middle of winter? Think before you speak dude.

  • David Huenecke

    Why are there more comments on this post than when the exact same article was posted about 3 or 4 weeks ago?

  • Eyedyllist

    Askren is a beast!