Ben Askren’s UFC stint has been quite a rollercoaster since taking off last year, but it may be in danger of going off the rails if he falters at UFC Singapore.
Facing off against jiu-jitsu legend Demian Maia, Askren is feeling some of the pressure.
“This is huge,” Askren told Submission Radio. “If I don’t get this win, I may be in trouble.”
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Askren, 35, is currently 1-1 in the Octagon since coming out of retirement to be a part of the “trade” between the UFC and ONE Championship which sent flyweight king Demetrious Johnson to the Asian promotion.
Askren is currently the 11th-ranked welterweight, but a second loss in a row could force him to consider returning to retirement.
” I’d have to think about it,” Askren said. “But man, if I don’t win this fight, I’m knocked way, way, way down the rung. So, I don’t think that’s going to happen, but I’m gonna go in there and mix it up, and then after that we’ll have to see where it goes.”
Askren believes he has a plan to beat Maia. Unlike previous opponents such as Kamaru Usman, Colby Covington and Askren’s close friend Tyron Woodley, “Funky” is willing to engage the fourth-degree black belt on the ground.
“I’m not gonna go out there and do dumb stuff to take Demian down, like, real risky stuff. I’m not gonna do that,” Askren said. “But I will go for the takedowns, and I am very comfortable on the ground. I actually brought in a really high-level grappler for my training camp, and I have a high-level coach in Mark Layman, and just, everything was feeling really good.
“I’m preparing for a lot of positions that I think we’ll see in the fight. So, I’m not gonna just dive in for takedowns, but I probably will get my takedowns, I will secure top position. I think I’m a very dominant top position and I’ll be able to stuff all of his sweeps and land a lot of damage from top.”
Ben Askren on Jorge Masvidal
If Askren is able to fend off Maia, he’ll find himself in position for a potential title run once again.
The brash welterweight has never been shy about naming names, and when asked about a potential rematch with Jorge Masvidal — the man who delivered him his first professional MMA defeat by way of five-second knockout — Askren doubled down on his assertion that he wants to get that one back, and he expects that Masvidal would accept if the offer came his way a second time.
“I made the dude famous, he better be open to [a rematch],” Askren said.
Masvidal did respond to previous comments from Askren about a rematch in a Twitter post on Monday.
— Jorge Masvidal UFC (@GamebredFighter) October 14, 2019
“Get some wins and we can do it,” Masvidal wrote before adding his now-famous “#supernecessary.”
The months since Masvidal’s win have seen the MMA veteran rise to mainstream stardom, and Askren believes he deserves credit for that ascension.
“I feel like I built him up a huge amount,” Askren said. “I feel like when you look at, there were polls going into that fight [about] which fight is most anticipated of the weekend. You know, I’ve been on two of the biggest cards of the year, and that one won by a freaking landslide over everything else. Yeah, I think there’s no doubt that I helped increase his popularity significantly.”
Ben Askren on Georges St-Pierre
Before Masvidal ignited a rivalry with Askren, “Funky” always had his sights set on former welterweight and middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre. Even now, amidst rumors of St-Pierre’s return, Askren would be interested in finally putting his skills to test against the UFC legend.
“[The St-Pierre fight is] a gigantic, humongous fight,” Askren said. “I mean, Colby’s not a star, Marty’s not a star. These are guys that, they’re not nearly as big or as popular as they think they are. And GSP’s star I would say, still dwarfs both of those guys.”
And though the welterweight division will soon have two titles — Usman’s undisputed championship belt and the soon-to-be-real “BMF” belt — Askren puts a fight with St-Pierre above all else.
“GSP may not have the belt, but you beat GSP, man, you’re a legend,” Askren said.
His return may be rumored, but St-Pierre’s comeback wouldn’t be to the welterweight division if such rumors are to be true. Numerous outlets have reported that St-Pierre is interested in cutting down to 155 pounds for the first time in his career to face lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
These reports are the latest of the St-Pierre saga, and Askren has begun to grow tired of the back-and-forth.
“I just don’t like it because it’s like, it just feels like – now, obviously he [returned] one time, right? He fought Michael Bisping. But he essentially retired in 2013,” Askren said. “So, we’re six years later. He did have one fight, so I’ll give him credit for that, but it seems like probably like once a quarter, his name pops up linked to somebody, you know?
“And it’s just like, dude, are you gonna fight or you not gonna fight? If you’re not gonna fight, cool. That’s fine. You’re one of the greatest of all time. That’s great, right? If you are gonna fight, hey, let’s get you in here, let’s see you fight a few people. That’s great also.”
Askren compares the situation to that of former featherweight and lightweight champion Conor McGregor. The Irish superstar has teased bouts on numerous occasions since his loss to Nurmagomedov last October, but none have come to fruition.
“It’s kind of the same gig that Conor’s pulling right now,” Askren said of St-Pierre’s rumored return. “Conor’s, you know, every time he calls out somebody, but we haven’t seen him in the cage. And so it’s like, you’re either gonna do this or you’re not gonna do this. And it’s cool for a little, but now you’ve been doing the same thing over and over and over, it’s just like, either do it or don’t do it. We don’t want to hear about it anymore.”
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.