Earlier in Ben Askren’s career, the consensus was that although he was a fantastic fighter, most fans weren’t interested in watching him fight. But, following his move to the UFC, “Funky” says the masses are ultimately behind his upcoming, Octagon debut.
Although Askren went 12-0 to begin his MMA career and held Bellator’s welterweight crown, the promotion opted to let him go. The narrative at the time was that while Askren was one of the most dominant fighters on the planet, due to his wrestling-centric game, his fights couldn’t be sold. That narrative was bolstered when Askren failed to reach a deal with the UFC, and he moved to ONE Championship.
Well, fast forward to today, and Askren’s now a UFC fighter. While talking to the media recently about that fact, Askren had this to say (quotes via MMA Junkie):
“When people very high up with a lot of push and a lot of followers are saying things that aren’t true about me, you can get a certain version of me,” Askren said. “When you get me talking for two hours, you realize this is a normal, likeable, hard-working guy. There’s really not much to dislike about this guy. And that’s what people saw. People saw that side of me, and then there was this push.”
“I’m 18-0,” Askren said. “That’s a weird ending to the story, since I haven’t fought anyone above me. People want the story to end. They don’t want to read halfway through the book and then the rest of the book gets burned. They want to know what else happens.
“So those two things together compounded to make this happen. It was the people.”
It certainly seems like there’s some buzz behind Askren these days, and some of that is likely due to the fact “Funky” isn’t shy about slinging verbal trash. But, it is nice to see that a lot of fans rallied behind Askren’s push to fight the best-of-the-best. While not all fans get hyped watching fighters who rely on their takedowns and top game, there’s no question that it can be a very effective and sustainable way to win. Just ask Khabib Nurmagomedov.
You also have to wonder if alongside MMA’s growth, more fans have come to appreciate world-class, grappling games when they see them? It’s also worth noting that Askren has finished the last three opponents he’s faced.
As this is being written, it hasn’t been officially announced yet, but Askren is expected to fight Robbie Lawler on January 26th.