You know, with all the talk of “fakeness”, “arrogance”, and “haters” that has utterly dominated any Jon Jones/UFC 151-related article we have posted since the infamous event occurred, perhaps we should be thankful that there are still a few guys out there who will tell it the way it is with little to no regard for their “brand,” their fanbase, or any fight promoters that might be interested in them. Honesty appears to be a fleeting quality in MMA fighters — and athletes in general — and is often swept under the rug in favor of the kind of politically correct, sponsor-gaining rhetoric that has been carbon-copied from athlete to athlete to the point of delirium. It’s an unfortunate side effect of a culture insistent on turning everyone who can throw a ball, a punch, or a kick into a “role model.”
So, like we said, maybe we should take more time to appreciate the select guys in the MMA biz who couldn’t care less about extravagance or endorsement in an ever-popularizing sport, and would rather just speak their mind when asked to do so. We’re referring of course, to Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren, who has shown in the past that he gives not a shit what MMA fans, writers, or even certain UFC presidents think about his…let’s call it “routine” style of fighting.
Askren has seen his fair share of haters since
exploding army-crawling onto the MMA scene back in 2009, mainly as a result of his seemingly carefree attitude in regards to finishing a fight. Although his record stands at a perfect 10-0, Askren has only finished two of his fights, and only one if you take into account that his submission victory over Ryan Thomas at Bellator 14 was the product of a referee blunder. Whereas most of Askren’s “lay-n-pray” counterparts would likely insist that they are at the minimum always looking for a finish in a fight that simply hasn’t present itself, Askren outwardly stated in an interview with MMAJunkie that he will probably never even look for a knockout in a fight no matter how long he is in the game.
Am I going out there looking for the knockout ever? Probably not. I doubt I’ll ever do that. I’m smart enough to stick with what I do well. I know I wrestle and use my offensive jiu-jitsu better than almost anyone in MMA. So I’m going to stick to my guns.
Now, where we’d like to say that we appreciate Askren’s honesty here, this kind of statement is not only rather depressing considering what Askren claims to do for a living, but rather foolish from a strategic standpoint as well. Part of being a great champion, or even a great fighter for that matter, comes from the ability, or at least the desire, to be constantly improving and adding newer facets to one’s game. Askren seems to be admitting that he not only cares less about improving himself as a fighter, but that he would feel awkward even attempting to step outside of his comfort zone. Then again, Askren could just be lulling his future opponents into a state of lethargy before the fight begins, only to shock them by unleashing a Nate Marquardt vs. Wilson Gouveia-esque combo on them out of nowhere.
But yeah, he’ll probably just stick to raping people’s legs, because psychology tells him that he won’t even be an elite-level athlete for another half decade or so:
When I won a Bellator tournament, I was only a year and four months into my fighting career, maybe. My outlook was, OK, now I get all this time to actually get good at this.
I’ve been with (trainer) Duke (Roufus) for one year now. I’m not under the delusion that I’m going to become a world-class striker in a year. That’s crazy. If anybody thinks they can actually do that, they’re an idiot.
If you read a lot of the psychology research, they say to become a world-class competitor in something, it takes 10 years, roughly. So, I haven’t got 10 years. I’ll be plenty well retired from fighting by the time I hit 10 years in fighting.
Again, I hate to turn the focus on Jon Jones, but Bones would probably laugh at such a notion if it were presented to him (unless Greg Jackson was the one presenting that theory. ZING!). The truth is, the glass ceiling is only as high as you set it, and for Askren to claim that he doesn’t even stand a chance at becoming a well-rounded athlete in less than ten years is ridiculous. Is he as freakishly built and ultra-athletic as Jones? Not even close, but neither was Chuck Liddell, who used his superior wrestling background as a basis upon which to hone his striking game. We’re not saying anyone can become a striking phenom in a year, but Askren is simply selling himself short if he believes he will never possess the ability to at least outstrike one of his opponents down the line. For Christ’s sake, he’s already been in the game for three years, and has shown so little improvement that it begs one to ask if he even trains striking in his camps.
When you take into account the recent Spike TV deal Bellator inked with Viacom, Askren’s statements take on a self-destructive quality as well. I mean, how is a company supposed to market a fighter who doesn’t even care to market himself? Askren’s last two title defenses (and his last five or so fights before that) were forgotten by their viewing audiences before they even reached the second round, and if Askren likes to think about career longevity, he might want to start thinking about ways to make himself more marketable. Let’s be honest, Chael Sonnen is nowhere near the most exciting fighter in the world, and in fact is pretty low on the in-ring excitability totem pole, which is something I just made up. But he makes us want to watch him fight because he has the uncanny power to instill a confidence in his abilities that we have never really seen come to fruition. Sonnen’s fighting ability is the Bigfoot of fighting abilities; it may or may not exist, but everyone is still going to talk about it.
But instead of trying any of the above options, it seems that Askren is destined to use the “MMA fans don’t understand me” argument that has led to the career-defining turns of absolutely noone:
I don’t expect them to appreciate it. I would say the majority of MMA fans don’t have a great technical knowledge base, and really, what they want to see is people snapping arms, or people knocking people out. There’s no appreciation for the finer points of jiu-jitsu or wrestling. But I’m OK with that. It’s not like I feel the need to change it or think I actually can.
Well Ben, I may not speak for the majority of MMA fans, but simply put, you are dead wrong here. MMA fans don’t need to see mangled limbs and vicious knockouts, but we do need to see the slightest desire to finish a fight, something you have not shown as long as we’ve known you. You preach about “the finer points of Jiu-Jitsu”, but we fail to see where laying in someone’s guard round after round fits into the mindset that the Gracie family brought to the early days of the UFC. Back then, Jiu-Jitsu was something that struck unexpected fear into the hearts of competitors, not something Royce used to outpoint his fellow fighters without the slightest comprehension of aggression.
Anyway, agree or disagree with Askren in the comments section. But for the love of God, don’t turn this thread into a discussion on Jon Jones.