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« | Home | »

Ben Askren: Fighters who focus on putting on a show instead of winning are losers

By Zach Arnold | April 7, 2011

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Ben Askren was booked for a radio interview on Sherdog. The lead-in topic was fan feedback, most of it in disgust about Eddie Alvarez not finishing off Pat Curran last Saturday at Bellator 39 in Eddie’s five-round title defense (he won by unanimous decision). Without much of an introduction, Askren jumped right into the fray and stood up for the Bellator Lightweight champion.

“I thought he was fairly aggressive. As MMA goes on, people are going to get tougher and tougher and tougher and everyone’s getting harder to finish. In the past, the levels of fighters have been so far apart but now as everyone gets better it’s going to get closer and closer, it’s going to be harder to finish fights.”

He believes that winning is the primary objective and that fighters who fight for bonuses (like the Leonard Garcias, the Chris Lytles, the Jorge Gurgels of the world) are losers.

“I think people like that are losers because, in my mind, a fight’s about winning, not about putting on a show. We’re not singers, we’re not actors, we are Mixed Martial Artists or fighters or athletes, whichever way you wanna do it and that’s about winning. I mean, and when you consider it consider this point from an athlete’s perspective. So, a championship fight’s 25 minutes. That’s a long fricking time to fight. I’ve done a lot of hard things in my life and that’s one of the hardest. 25 minutes is a long time to fight. When you consider, if you go out there and say you go out like a sprint pace, like you go hard and Eddie Alvarez went to take his head off in the first two minutes, he might have gassed out in two minutes and lost the fight. That would have been so stupid and, so, I mean when you’re fighting for 25 minutes, every fan and their mother can talk shit about this and that and don’t finish fights. Well, why don’t they get in there and fight for 25 minutes? That’s a long time. And you got to win before you show. I mean, people that show on top of winning, say Anderson Silva, that dude now he’s a showman but he’s also won, what, 13 fights in a row? So, obviously, he can do it. And there’s people like Leonard Garcia who goes out and puts on a show but he’s like 3-5 in his last 8 fights. Like, c’mon dude.”

Mr. Askren also thinks the fans that encourage that mentality are marks who don’t grasp what the sport of MMA is about.

“It’s kind of annoying but I understand that all they want to see is blood and guts, 90% of them. I mean there’s only a small few that actually appreciate the intricacies of grappling and all the other stuff that goes on within a fight. Most of them just want to see someone get knocked out cold.”

Ben also jumped into another hot-topic discussion, which is the concept of UFC wanting teammates to fight each other. Consider Ben squarely in the corner of Cesar Gracie on the topic.

“I mean, Tyron Woodley is the only person in my division that I wouldn’t fight. Jake Shields… I went up and trained with him for a while and I really like him. We kind of became friends, so, you know, I would think twice about ever taking that and maybe if they forced into it, I might, but… it’s just, there’s how many people that fight? There’s probably 100 people on the UFC roster in Welterweight, maybe 75, I don’t know. But, it’s like, I can fight all those dudes and Cesar Gracie’s point was you can fight one guy for $10 million or you can fight another guy for $8 million, like, what’s the difference? There’s so many other people to fight. You know, what’s the point? And that’s kind of the way that I feel about it. It’s like, if I’m going to fight, I’m going to try to hurt somebody. I might have to do something dirty to do that and I don’t want to have to worry about my friend saying, ‘Why the hell did you do that to me?’ And, so, it’s just not worth it to me and there’s so many other people that I can beat up in the world, why would I want to beat up one of my friends?”

Askren was doing the media rounds to promote his upcoming fight on Saturday night against Nick Thompson. Suffice to say, Ben’s not into the entertainment thing because rather than try to build up the fight, he destroyed Thompson throughout the interview as an opponent that poses no threat of winning their fight.

“I really don’t believe he brings a lot (to the table). The one thing, you know, I won’t get in a boxing match with him. Like I said, if I do stand-up with him it’ll be after I tenderize him for a few minutes and he won’t be the same person that we was at the beginning of the fight. He’ll be a much weaker, worn-down opponent. Other than that, I’ll know he’ll try to go for a sneaky submission here and there, he is a veteran, he’s obviously won a lot of fights, I think he’s won 38 fights so obviously he does a few things well. But I’ve been grappling with a lot of black belts and I know I’m a very difficult person to submit, so I’m not really worried about that. I don’t think he’s been training that hard, I think he’s over the hill, I don’t think he’s got great cardio, he’s probably cutting too much weight which leads me to believe that he’s going to come out and try to throw a few hard punches and, after that, it’s money in the bank for me.”

He explains his high level of confidence as more or less factually-based rationalization.

“I wasn’t the kind of wrestler that stood around and won a match 3-2. When I was in college wrestling, I won by big points and I took the guys who are the best college wrestlers in the nation, I took them down lots of time in a match. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, I took them down that many times in a match so really the only people you have in fighting right now in my weight class are Johny Hendricks and Josh Koscheck. And that’s it, that’s two people, that’s not very many when you consider how many people are fighting in my weight class. And below that you have Tyron Woodley, he never won a national title, he’s a great wrestler but I won’t fight him because we’ve been friends since I was 17 years old. So, really, I don’t think there’s anyone that can stop me from taking them down because not only am I going to try taking them down once but I’m a very persistent person and I get what I want and I’m going to keep on coming until I get it so it’s going to be very difficult for someone to stop me from doing that.”

Mr. Askren feels his skill set makes him very hard to beat in today’s MMA environment.

“I love the sport of MMA. I try to be an intelligent fighter like I try to be an intelligent wrestler. I’m not one of those guys that goes, ‘oh, I’m just going to go out there and see what happens.’ … So when I got into the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, I know for a fact that, hey, I’ll be able to take anyone down that I want. So, OK, after that, then what’s my next point of emphasis… Jiu-Jitsu. If I can take anyone down and no one can submit me, then already at that point I’m a very, very difficult person to beat. And so then that’s what I did, so I went there, I got some black belts and I said, c’mon, let’s go, submit me as many times as you can and I’m going to figure out how to get out of it. So, right away I’m a tough person to beat because I got good cardio, I’m going to quit, I’m going to take you down, and you can’t submit me. That’s a tough person to win a fight against, strategy-wise, against anyone in the world that can happen. And then after that, now I’m just starting to work on my hands in case there is someone who I do prefer to stand up with or whatever.

“Right now, I feel like I’m really a threat to anyone. I mean I’ve trained with guys who are the best in the world. I’ve trained with Jake Shields, I’ve trained with Nick Diaz, I’ve trained with Jon Fitch. I understand how good the best people in the world at my weight class are. I really do. And just because I haven’t fought them in a real fight doesn’t mean that I don’t understand that. So, yeah, I’m trying to step up fast. I’m not trying to be in fighting until I’m 40. I want to see how good I can get, get there as fast as I can, do it, say OK, I did it, and then calm down, have a family, and live happily ever after, I guess.”

Topics: Bellator, MMA, Media, Zach Arnold | 18 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

18 Responses to “Ben Askren: Fighters who focus on putting on a show instead of winning are losers”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    Winning is the most important thing. But in the equation is having enough people pay to watch you fight so you can do it as a career.

    Alvarez was easily the superior fighter and decided to coast instead of making it an impressive win. And that will always annoy the fans and rightfully so.

    I don’t expectfighters to be a Chris Lytle and gun for the bonuses. But they need to put the effort into trying to finish.

    • The Gaijin says:

      I really have to disagree with this notion that he “coasted”. His opponent refused to engage, got on his bike and fought not to lose. In the end your #1 priority is to win the fight and the way Curran was fighting Alvarez would have had to really chase him and potentially expose himself to getting caught with a hail mary. My take was most of Alvarez’s “showboating” near the end (which I hated btw – no need for that sh*t, you’re not RJJr.) was out of frustration with Curran.

      If you want to blame someone for the fight not finishing, blame Curran because the way he “fought” was the reason why…ask Nate Quarry why he didn’t finish Kalib Starnes (no I’m not saying Curran was trying to pull a “Starnes” but when someone won’t engage you it’s tough to look good).

      • Steve4192 says:

        Agreed.

        I thought Alvarez did everything he could reasonably do in order to push the action in that fight, but Curran was bound and determined to stay on his bicycle and avoid exchanging. Not much Eddie can do about that outside of taking irresponsibly stupid risks, and I don’t think any fighter should be obligated to take dumb risks just to please the fans with a finish fetish.

        • EJ says:

          Did I watch a different fight than you guys because at no point did I see Curra run from Alvarez or refuse to engage if anything it was the other way around.

          Alvarez was content to outland Curran who doesn’t have fast hands and doesn’t throw alot to begin with. But even with supposedly clear advantages he was getting hit alot and was getting his takedowns stuffed left and right.

          It was an incredibly lackluster performance from Eddie and nowhere the dominant showing some people are claiming. There’s way too many people trying to spin what happened in that fight when it’s clear that Eddie didn’t look world class against a guy who was lucky to be in the cage with him in the first place.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          I agree with EJ.

          Curran played it conservative, but there were so many openings for Eddie and he didn’t take them. He was hitting body shots at will, but refused to do it as much as he should despite it being wide open all fight.

          And by the 5th round, he was running around the cage more then fighting.

          I’m not saying Curran’s not to blame either. He didn’t come to win. But Alvarez is a different class of fighter but fought to his opponents level.

        • The Gaijin says:

          When you shell-up the entire fight (look at the guard Curran used) and don’t engage and play defense, you’re not leaving much of a fight for your opponent. It happens in boxing all the time, and it doesn’t matter how skilled the better fighter is, if your opponent plays all defense and won’t engage you’re not going to finish and not going to look good.

          The only shots Curran was leaving for Alvarez were the wide bolo shots because the had the shell on the whole time. If you’re not engaging there’s no openings to land clean head-shots. Eddie was going to the body, but this isn’t boxing where you can work the body for 5-6-7 rounds and then pay it off through 8-9-10. And if you’re opponent isn’t doing anything offensively they aren’t going to expend the energy required to make the body work pay off. It’s too bad Curran isn’t someone that’s concerned with looking like Phil Baroni so that his cardio made the bodywork worthwhile…but he’s a professional fighter that came to not lose. Basically, he was a Machida with zero offense or gameplan to win.

        • edub says:

          I’m in Steve and Gaij’s corner here kinda:

          Eddie fought a perfect fight. Curran fought a smart fight. He tried to win the fight, as intelligently as he knew how. Sometimes you just don’t get finishes in fights. I think that’s hard for people to except.

        • The Gaijin says:

          As for this, “It was an incredibly lackluster performance from Eddie and nowhere the dominant showing some people are claiming.” – who’s claiming it was some kind of utter domination? You so that you can “attack” the idea?

          I don’t see anyone claiming he beat him within an inch of his life or had some amazing performance. But I do see a lot of people trying to create fake rage over him not ripping his head off, which is just a people trying to create a negative from nothing. Yeah the fight wasn’t a barnburner, but you need two guys to fight and a 50-45 win is still a 50-45 win.

        • EJ says:

          “I don’t see anyone claiming he beat him within an inch of his life or had some amazing performance. But I do see a lot of people trying to create fake rage over him not ripping his head off, which is just a people trying to create a negative from nothing. Yeah the fight wasn’t a barnburner, but you need two guys to fight and a 50-45 win is still a 50-45 win.”

          And I’ve seen several people make that exact claim, which is why I mentioned it in the first place. And the only people creating anything are the one’s spinning what was an incredible lackluster showing by a supposed top 5 LW. Curran would have gotten killed middle of the road UFC LW’s and he was giving Eddie a very close fight. I’m not even going to go into the judging I can’t waste anymore time on that bs.

        • The Gaijin says:

          “And the only people creating anything are the one’s spinning what was an incredible lackluster showing by a supposed top 5 LW. Curran would have gotten killed middle of the road UFC LW’s and he was giving Eddie a very close fight.”

          LOL – I almost wish I lived in the dream world you lived in. Yeah such a close fight…the hate is strong in you buddy.

    • smoogy says:

      The idea that Alvarez “coasted” is so laughable, it makes me wonder if you even saw the fight at all. Curran held a very tight, high guard the entire fight, making it very hard to touch his chin. Combined with good takedown defense, Curran was a very tough target. Instead of getting overly agressive like his opponent wanted him to, Alvarez calmly adjusted to throwing brutal two piece combinations to the body, a tactic few in the division or sport could adapt with that kind of effectiveness. A complete shutout of a capable opponent is anything but “coasting”.

      The reaction to Alvarez-Curran sheds some light on the unfortunate thought process a lot of fanboys have about MMA. They didn’t have any idea how good Curran was, and he wasn’t ranked, so therefore it must mean Alvarez is not that good because he didn’t score an “impressive” finish via KO or submission. It’s like they’re completely out of touch with how fighting actually works.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        I think you are overhyping Curran. Who has he beaten? A completely flat and unmotivated Roger Huerta? Toby “I have more losses then Jones has fights” Imada? A fight he lost on my scorecards by the way.

        I’ve seen enough of him to know he is not top tier and likely never will be.

        It has nothing to do with fanboys. It has to do with Curran not being a top tier guy and Alvarez fought to Curran’s level.

        Some fighters do that. They perform better against better fighters. But that fight was completely uninspiring by Alvarez and took a lot of the shine off his hype. Well, that and Aoki laying on his behind and still submitting him….

  2. Ergface says:

    Sounds a bit contradictory to make that statement and then brag about his snowy college wrestling style. Ben needs to realize MMA isn’t amateur sport, it’s spectator prizefighting. If you fight just to win that’s OK but don’t expect to draw spectators or big prize money. Alvarez is interesting precisely because he puts on a show, and his flaws create drama. A finish would have been nice but his performance was far from Fitch-like.

  3. CA Pino says:

    I might be one of the few people who is fascinated by how Askren works. His takedowns seem awkward and he he’ll grab anything he can get a hold of and just make people look silly on their way to the ground. His BJJ is crazy since he puts his head and arms in danger but never seems to even remotely come close to being tapped. The only minor fault I see is his lack of submission attempts, with his grappling acumen he should be able to sub any welterweight Bellator throws at him. He might not be stand and bang fighter but he entertains the hell out of me.

    • Steve4192 says:

      “His BJJ is crazy since he puts his head and arms in danger but never seems to even remotely come close to being tapped”

      I think that is a function of the quality of his opponents. Watch the video of him and Jake Shields rolling around. When Askren gave Shields those openings, Jake quickly seized them and made him tap. Ben is going to have some problems as his level of competition ramps up. I think he is up to the challenge of overcoming those problems, but he is going to have some ugly moments along the way.

      That said, I completely agree with his stance on ‘winning’ versus ‘entertainment’. Being entertaining is a huge advantage when it comes to making money and being a fan favorite, but at the end of the day, winning is what really matters.

      Excellence should be should be entertaining in it’s own right. Watching the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl team completely shut down opposing offenses wasn’t terribly crowd pleasing, but it was incredibly impressive. Ditto for watching the Stockton-Malone Utah Jazz teams run the same pick-&-roll over and over again and their opponents being powerless to stop it. Or watching Greg Maddux soft-toss his way to a five hit shutout. As a person who appreciates watching someone who is truly exceptional at what they do, I love watching fighters who are masters at their craft, even if their craft is takedowns and control.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      Askren is one of the best at “scrambling”. That is basically when two fighters are grappling and they are each trying to get dominant position. Askren’s ability to continue to keep his motion is unreal. He doesn’t always have the best technique. I wouldn’t use him to teach a young wrestler how to wrestle. But he makes it work for himself and it’s absolutely fantastic to watch.

    • The Gaijin says:

      “I think that is a function of the quality of his opponents. Watch the video of him and Jake Shields rolling around. When Askren gave Shields those openings, Jake quickly seized them and made him tap. Ben is going to have some problems as his level of competition ramps up. I think he is up to the challenge of overcoming those problems, but he is going to have some ugly moments along the way.”

      All types of this right here.

      He leaves a ton of openings and puts himself in a lot of situations a more talented/savvy fighter would have him in all kinds of trouble. Right now he’s able to get away with it and make it work, but he’s going to be in worlds of trouble if he plans on doing that against better opponents – unfortunately it seems like one of those “bad habits” that he’ll keep on drilling into himself until he gets caught.

  4. FightingBlueberry says:

    If Askren thinks that going out there and laying n’ praying in order to win is 100% cool then he has no idea. Once an athlete turns professional, he becomes a part of the entertainment profession. Fans tune in on tv or pay per view to be entertained. Winning-is-the-only thing is for the olympics and amateur athletics. Dana White is completely justified in paying fighters who put on good, exciting fights for the fans. Let’s face it, it’s what helps the sport to grow.

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