Askren explains why he's retiring from MMA

When Ben Askren announced earlier this week that he would be retiring from his pro mixed martial arts career after what will be his last fight in November, many MMA fans were surprised -- and baffled.

Ben Askren (Photo/ONE Championship)
After all, the 33-year-old former University of Missouri mat champ is at the top of his game, owning the ONE Championship welterweight belt and a perfect 17-0 pro record, and just coming off a dominant TKO victory this past weekend over Sweden's Zebaztian Kadestam at ONE Championship: Shanghai.

Askren has his reasons ... which he shared this week in an interview with The MMA Hour.

"The first reason is because nobody retires in time," Askren said. "I mean, you think about who retires during their prime, the number of athletes who do that in any sport is very small."

The 2008 Olympic wrestler and two-time NCAA champ went on to cite two athletes -- Tiger Woods, and Muhammad Ali -- who remained in sports long past their prime, and suffered the consequences.

" ... You see Tiger Woods fall off -- well, there's not really too much damage he could take from that, right? Although when you watch him and he sucks, and you're like, 'God, he used to be so good, but you suck now,' it's kind of disconcerting as a fan, right?" said Askren. "But then you look at someone like Muhammad Ali, who was literally my favorite athlete of all-time. The punishment he took from sticking around too long past his prime, man, I would have to say -- we can't prove it, but I'd have to say we could guess it led to a lot of the problems that he had later in his life."

"Then the No. 2 reason will be, if you're competing right, if you're doing it right, competition should be a very selfish pursuit," Askren continued. "When I was younger ... I always said I would be done by the time I was 30, because I wanted to be able to give back. I thought I would be coaching, and I am, and I thought I would be a parent, and I am. And there's a lot of things that I have to do. For example, I didn't coach anyone for about the last six weeks before my fight at AWA, because this is my time, I need to get ready. And there's things I miss out in my kids' life, because this is my time, I have to get ready. So, I guess those are the two main reasons that I kind of set an expiration date for myself."

"The plan when I was younger was (to retire at) 30. I always said 30," Askren said.

Now, three years past that self-imposed retirement date, Askren was reflective of where he at this point in his MMA career.

"I'm not the same guy I was at 28 physically. Now, technically I've gotten better, because I haven't been doing this MMA thing that long. But physically, I have definitely gotten worse. I've passed my peak."

"So, when I re-signed my contract with ONE Championship two years ago, I told them straight up, 'I'm done. At the end of 2017, I'm done.' Initially, like I said, I thought it was going to be 30. (But) 33, that's it."

Askren will have one last fight at ONE Championship: Immortal Pursuit in Singapore on November 24.

The man Askren is slated to face in his final fight -- Shinya Aoki -- is an experienced veteran, holding a 39-7-1 professional record, and 5-1 record competing for the ONE Championship organization.

After that last time in the cage, Askren will trade the fight shorts for a business suit, and become an executive at ONE Championship ... thus fulfilling his plan to retire from a very successful MMA career.


Login or Register to post a comment

coolbeans (1) about 8 months ago
Ben's reasons for retirement are great ones. Especially the family goals, Your children only grow up once.

Ben's high school, college and MMA career have been exciting, entertaining, motivating and they display his innate funky feeling of body positioning on the mat.

Blessings and best wishes for the new announcing career. Thanks for the life lessons and entertainment. 18-0 sounds good!