At one time, Ben Askren was widely considered the be the best welterweight fighter in the world.
As a former Bellator and ONE Championship titleholder, Askren was thought to be the best fighter not in the UFC. With a record of 18-0, that all changed thanks to a historic trade that saw the ONE star jump to the UFC in exchange for flyweight great Demetrious Johnson.
Though his UFC career was cut short after just three fights inside the Octagon, Askren stayed relevant with a high-profile boxing match against YouTuber turned-professional boxer, Jake Paul. The two met inside the squared circle in April 2021 with ‘The Problem Child’ scoring a first-round knockout. During a recent interview with MMA on SiriusXM, Askren spoke about Paul, specifically whether or not the 25-year-old social media star is sincere in his heavily publicized crusade for better fighter pay.
In his comments, Askren is far from convinced that Jake Paul is genuine in his concern about fighter pay, believing that much of it comes from Paul’s manager Nakisa Bidarian who he suspects is a former UFC employee with an axe to grind.
“I think it’s an angle where Nakisa [Bidarian], his manager… I don’t really know what Nakisa’s position is. I know he’s a former UFC employee who seems to have a bone to pick I think. I think a lot of it comes from that. Dana [White] obviously he’s not my favorite guy ever. He essentially kept me out of the UFC in 2013 during my first free agency and I talk about that at length in the book, but genuinely I think he does the best job that he can most of the time. Every once in a while he can be vindictive and that’s not ideal.”
Askren also shared his thoughts on the debate over UFC fighter pay from both sides when compared to the pay of professional boxers.
“The pay structure of UFC fighters I think can be debated from a few different angles. Obviously on the boxing end, the very tip of the top, they make way more money, right? But then you start looking down the cards, we’re talking like high-level Floyd Mayweather cards or someone else [like] Canelo. You look down the card, those guys are $500 bucks. Maybe $1000 bucks and it’s like, ‘Well I think minimum salary in the UFC right now is $12,000 [to show] and $12,000 [to win]. Somewhere around there.
“So on the medium and lower ends, I think UFC fighters are taken care of significantly more well than other combat sports. On the very tippy top, not as well probably. So I think you can argue and debate in a free market system, maybe they would make more money, but maybe they wouldn’t because there is a value in building an organization in the UFC. Boxing is all these different governing bodies and it’s kind of a disaster because they never get the best guys to fight each other.”
"I would say no and no."
— MMA on SiriusXM (@MMAonSiriusXM) November 1, 2022
Ben Askren Discusses the Hip Surgery He Should Have Had Before Signing with the UFC
Making his official debut at UFC 235, Ben Askren submitted former UFC champion Robbie Lawler in round one, signaling a new era of 170-pound dominance inside the Octagon. That all changed four months later when a flying knee by Jorge Masvidal shocked the world at UFC 239. ‘Gamebred’ knocked out Askren in a record-setting five seconds. ‘Funky’ would never be the same again. Following up the massive knockout loss with a loss to legend Demian Maia that same year, Ben Askren would walk away from mixed martial arts.
“In 2013, I think I was at the peak of where I was, or at least really close. I had been in the sport for four years and I was really starting to figure things out. In my early time in Bellator, I won the belt a year and a half after I started fighting so I didn’t know how to do a lot of things. I wasn’t good at fighting. It took me a while.”
Following his undefeated run in Bellator, Askren jumped to the Asian-based MMA promotion ONE Championship in 2014 to continue his reign of excellence.
“You know I went to ONE Championship and essentially didn’t have a competitive fight for four years and then I retired because I was like, ‘Well, I want to retire. I don’t want to fight anymore.’ I still wanted to try to fight the best guys, I just didn’t have the opportunity. So when I retired I said, ‘That’s my caveat. If I can, I’ll come back. If not, I’m out.'”
After five years competing inside the ONE Circle, Askren would finally get the chance he wanted, being part of a first-of-its-kind trade that sent him from ONE to the UFC while Dana White and company sent pound-for-pound great Demetrious Johnson to ONE Championship. Unfortunately, things would not go well for Askren under the UFC banner. ‘Funky’ went 1-2 inside the Octagon and largely blames that on a lingering hip injury that he thought was simply the result of getting older.
“After I had my hip surgery, I started realizing some of the problems with my hip was causing. I didn’t realize the extent of it. Literally the day after my hip surgery, I felt so much healthier.”
In retrospect, Askren reveals he should have had the surgery once he had retired from ONE Championship. If he had, who knows how far he could have gone in the UFC.
“The second I retired from ONE Championship I would’ve had the hip surgery the next day.”
"The second I retired from ONE Championship I would've had the hip surgery the next day."@Benaskren discusses the timeline of his MMA career & what he would've changed about his hip surgery.
— MMA on SiriusXM (@MMAonSiriusXM) November 1, 2022