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Former champion, colorful personality Ben Askren announces retirement from MMA

One of the last true entertainers in MMA is hanging up his gloves. On Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show Monday afternoon, Ben Askren announced his retirement from MMA. The 35-year-old ends a career that began in 2009 and ended with multiple championships. This is his second time retiring but possibly the last.

Askren (19-2, 1NC) stated he needed to undergo hip replacement surgery, hence the need to stop his fighting career. This comes after two losses in a row, one a brutal KO at the hands of Jorge Masvidal at UFC 239. He is 1-2 in his UFC career. Before then, it was considered a dream he would even be in the UFC.

A freestyle wrestler, Askren is a multi-time Olympic medalist and a two-time NCAA Division I National Champion. He started his MMA career at Headhunter Productions but became known as one of the most dominant Bellator fighters in the company’s early years. In his fourth fight with the promotion, he beat Lyman Good for the Bellator Welterweight Championship. Askren defended the title four times, besting fighters like Douglas Lima and Andrey Koreshkov.

Besides a solid wrestler and fighter, Askren has also been known for his mouth. In 2013, Askren was a free agent following his release from Bellator, forcing him to relinquish the title he carried. As rare as it is to see now, Askren was one of the most vocal members of the MMA community when it came to Dana White. When the UFC passed up on Askren, he took his talents overseas to ONE Championship. From there, he continued his dominant ways.

After one successful fight, he immediately earned a title opportunity for ONE. He won the ONE Welterweight Championship off of Nobuatsu Suzuki at ONE FC 19: Reign of Champions. He retained the title against Luis Santos in a no-contest bout following an accidental eye poke. That ended 14 straight fights with a decisive victory. Following that, Askren won four more bouts for ONE, defending the title three times (one opponent, Nikolay Aleksakhin, missed weight). He retired for the first time in 2017 but teased a return at various points.

After years of avoiding the inevitable, the UFC sent one of their best fighters, Demetrious Johnson, to ONE for Askren. He immediately made an impact with his mouth in a company that missed Conor McGregor. Askren made his UFC debut at UFC 235, Barely beating Robbie Lawler. Lawler dropped him on his head and starting pounding away, but the ref didn’t stop the fight, allowing Askren to take advantage. He then lost two in a row to Masvidal (via KO) and Demian Maia back in October via submission.

Perhaps it was age that was a factor in his lackluster UFC career, or that he gave his all outside of the promotion. What he lacked in an ability inside the octagon he more than made up for with his presence. A colorful personality, Askren became a breath of fresh air as a truly authentic fighter.

What he does from here on out is unknown. What we do know is that his skills can be used to mentor the next generation of MMA stars and wrestlers. Whether used behind the scenes or on commentary (the latter would be fantastic), Askren ended his career beloved by millions of fans. Try as they might, there will never be another fighter like “Funky” Ben Askren.

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Baseball Editor, Misc. Sports Editor. Covers all things combat sports (MMA, Pro Wrestling and Boxing). When he's not writing, Daniel hosts a podcast, The Main Event.
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