If you’ve closed the book on Ben Askren being a championship contender in the UFC, it looks like one of his coaches would say you need to reconsider that position…
As you know, Askren’s undefeated run in MMA came to a ridiculously fast and violent halt at UFC 239, as he was taken out by Jorge Masvidal in just five seconds. Since Askren is a former Bellator and ONE champ, and because he had gone 19-0 prior to Saturday, the 34-year-old could have locked up a title shot if he had won.
Well, that didn’t happen, and now it remains to be see what’s next for Askren. After all, it wasn’t that long ago when the decorated wrestler decided to quit fighting, since he wasn’t in a position to fight the UFC’s elite.
But, since UFC 239 went down, Askren’s striking coach Duke Roufus spoke with MMA Fighting. While talking about Askren’s future, Roufus said this:
“Maybe by the end of the year. But I’m not a doctor either,” Roufus said, while talking about a possibile timeline for Askren’s return. “The other thing, I looked at the video, he got caught more on the neck, which I’ve been told by physicians is the safest place—kind of when I used to fight I used to kick at the neck, it’s almost like choking someone. When you kick them on the neck there’s not as much damage, it’s almost like a choke-out, but I think that’s much less than when you get rattled in the head…”
“He’s one of those guys, he’s gonna be fine,” Roufus said. “If anything, it might put a little bit more chip on his shoulder to work even harder than he’s ever worked before, which is pretty scary.”
So, these comments are interesting on a couple of levels. Roufus can’t speak for Askren directly, but the fact he’s mentioned the possibility of him fighting again in 2019 is noteworthy. We’ve seen fighters take a prolonged breaks after suffering brutal knockouts. But, then again, Askren had never been stopped, and he’s taken next to no damage in a lot of his fights.
Then there’s the comments about Askren working “harder” than before. If Askren’s still focused on winning a UFC title and if continues to evolve as a fighter, than it would be silly to write him off as a contender. Yes, even if things weren’t going well in his controversial victory over Robbie Lawler, and despite what happened at UFC 239.