Undefeated Ben Askren will retire in November after he battles Shinya Aoki.
Ben Askren is looking at hanging his gloves up and taking an executive role with ONE FC. Damon Martin via MMA Weekly posted the story saying November would be the end of Askren’s career. ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong took to Facebook to make the fight news official, also notifying the world of the impending retirement. He said in part.
“In what will be a ferocious contest between two great white sharks, Shinya Aoki and Ben Askren have decided to lay it all on the line. Win or lose, this fight will be Ben’s last. Ben has made the decision to retire after this fight to become an executive at ONE.”
The interesting aspect of Askren’s career winding down is where he might rank among Welterweights all-time. He is a wrestler, and few have used their wrestling prowess as successfully as Askren has in his MMA career. He’s an undefeated 17-0 and holds the ONE Championship Welterweight title. He previously held the Bellator Welterweight Championship as well but left the promotion for the opportunity at more money in ONE.
Time served in Bellator.
He won the Bellator championship against Nick Thompson and defended it four times before leaving Bellator. During his Bellator run, he defeated current champion Douglas Lima and other talented fighters like Lyman Good, Dan Hornbuckle, Jay Hieron, Karl Amoussou, and another former Bellator Champion Andrey Koreshkov.
He simply was unbeatable in Bellator and defeated their current and past champion. Akren was not always well received for his style, however. Ben was a wrestler first, and a wrestler second. He was big on getting the takedown and then smothering and riding his opponent until the end of the round.
Six of his Bellator fights went the distance, including five in a row. He just wasn’t what the fans were trying to get behind. He lobbied to get into the UFC when his Bellator run was over, but Dana White has never been a fan of the smothering style and opted to pass. White and Askren had an odd relationship. Askren would publicly ask to enter the UFC, and then Dana White would say, “He never wanted to sign with the UFC.” It would have been nice to see how he did against the GSPs, or Robbie Lawler, Tyron Woodley etc. That’s what hurts his legacy long-term. Lack of competition with the elite of the division.
Funky is off to Asia.
Being that the UFC wasn’t looking to meet Askren’s demands, and Ben wasn’t going to languish away on the independent circuit, he looked for opportunities elsewhere. He found a home in ONE Championship. Since he’s been there, he has remained unbeaten and has become their champion.
The competition he faces is tough, but they are not household names and as such, the majority of MMA fans here in the states simply don’t regard Askren when talking about the best fighters. The USA Today ranked Ben the 6th best Welterweight in the world. It’s just really hard to quantify how he’d fare in the UFC.
The quality of opponents in ONE is good, but it is a step down from what he’d face in the UFC or the current state of Bellator. He has won four of his five fights in ONE via stoppage so that in some senses shows the level of competition isn’t as stiff.
He will face submission expert Shinya Aoki in his final professional fight in November. Aoki was one of the best Lightweights in Japan and his submission game top notch. He was TKO’d in his last outing in ONE Championship but will be looking to submit Askren when they go head to head. It should be an entertaining fight, and a fun way for Askren to call it a career.
Life after MMA
He will be taking an executive role with the company, and they’ve been good to Askren. They gifted him a nice Lamborghini when he became champion. Yeah, while the UFC might give you a 50% off gift card to Reebok, or pay Snoop Dogg to play your fighter retreat, ONE Championship handed Ben a new Lambo. Nothing wrong with that right?
Where Ben Askren ranks all time is up for discussion, and it likely will be discussed once he retires in November. I think his style would prove a serious test for many of the top ten in the UFC. Would he ultimate mate ly win the title in UFC is maybe a stretch, but he’s a talented fighter and it’s kind of sad we never got the opportunity to find out?