Ben Askren entered the UFC with an undefeated record and championships in two different promotions. Three fights later, the former two-time NCAA national champion wrestler and 2008 U.S. Olympian is pondering the end of his MMA career.
“Retirement is definitely something I am considering,” Askren said on "Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show" on Monday. “I would be lying to you if I said I was not. It’s just a time-cost analysis. I have a lot of things to do in my life. I’m a really busy guy. I have a lot of things I’m passionate about, and I love. Not training specifically, but to and from setting stuff up, I’m probably spending about 30 hours a week on MMA related stuff. ‘Can I place my time better somewhere else’ is definitely a thought process that’s crossed my mind.”
Askren is coming off a third-round submission loss to Demian Maia in the UFC Fight Night 162 headliner in Singapore on Saturday. The former Bellator and One Championship titlist implemented his wrestling reasonably well in the early going, as he landed four takedowns. However, on the last of those Maia used a heel hook to sweep from the bottom, and he eventually transitioned to Askren’s back to secure the fight-ending rear-naked choke.
“If I beat Demian Maia I’m probably one more good win away from a title shot,” Askren said. “Now I look at my path, and I’m like ‘Oh s—t.’ I’m kind of far away. Fortunes can change fast, but it’s probably minimum, minimum three fights. It could be upwards of four or five. Who knows?
“I don’t need to prove I’m a good fighter. I don’t need more money. I don’t need to be more famous. I don’t really want any of those things that badly. What I wanted to do was prove I’m the best in the world, and now I’m looking at how far away that is and how long it’s going to take me to get there and trying to weigh all that out.”
Askren debuted in the Octagon against Robbie Lawler at UFC 235, where he was nearly knocked out before earning a dubious submission victory with a bulldog choke in the opening stanza. Then, “Funky” ended up on a permanent highlight reel when Jorge Masvidal knocked him out with a flying knee in just five seconds at UFC 239. Maia might’ve been Askren’s best overall performance, but it won’t be reflected in his record.
For years, Askren was regarded as one of the best fighters not on the UFC roster, and he feuded openly with promotion head Dana White. Things haven’t gone as planned since he was “traded” from One for Demetrious Johnson, but Askren is glad to have gotten the opportunity to try and prove himself.
“All I ever wanted was an opportunity. That’s all I ever wanted,” he said. “I got my opportunity, so it would be hard to be bitter or disgruntled in any way because I had the opportunity I wanted. I wasn’t able to execute on that opportunity, and that’s on me. That is kind of one thought process. Then the other thought process is part of me wants to fight more. I thought I was doing really well in the Demian Maia fight.”
The final part of that statement is Askren leaving the door open to continue his MMA career. Retirement isn’t a done deal yet, thought it will be a consideration during his decision-making process in the coming weeks.
“I would say my feelings are very, very mixed,” Askren said. “There’s parts of me that say, ‘Yeah, of course I want to fight some more. I think I can still compete with the best guys in the world.’ I’ve beaten some of the best guys in the world. Douglas Lima, I was really happy to see him get some credit this weekend after beating Rory MacDonald, because I think he’s fantastic. Part of me says, ‘Man, I’ve got a lot of things I want to do with my life, so I need to get to getting.’”