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By Zach Arnold | April 7, 2011
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.”