Ben Askren Discusses Potential Return To MMA And Wrestling
It has been over a year since former Bellator and ONE Championship welterweight champion Ben Askren announced his retirement, citing hip issues.
A month after his last MMA fight against Demian Maia at UFC Singapore in October 2019 – which he lost via a third-round submission – Askren announced he was retiring from the sport of MMA because he needed a hip replacement, as advised by his doctors.
Askren also retired in 2017, but came out of retirement for a chance to fight in the UFC, competing thrice in nearly eight months. He kick-started his UFC career with a win over former champion Robbie Lawler at UFC 235, but in his very next fight, the 36-year-old was on the receiving end of the fastest knockout (5 seconds) in UFC history against Jorge Masvidal at UFC 239.
Speaking to MMA Fighting, Askren talked about how the past two years of his career have seemed like a “blur”.
“It does not feel like that long ago,” Askren said. “The whole last couple of years seems like a blur—from the un-retirement to the retirement, to the fighting again—and then this year, 2020 for everybody has been pretty wild with everything going on.”
When he retired last year, Askren revealed that he had been facing hip issues for the past three to five years, and the doctors had recommended a hip replacement surgery. Fortunately, the doctors later decided that he didn’t require a full hip replacement, and instead went for a Birmingham hip resurfacing – an alternative surgery.
“It’s called a Birmingham hip,” Askren explained. “What they do is get it all cleaned up, they cap the top of it, clean up the inside, put something on the inside, but yeah. I’m pain-free but there was a whole bunch of other things: I knew a bunch of pain on my one side, and my range of motion was tied to my hip issue, but I had all kinds of back problems.
“The day after the surgery, it was just gone. It was wild. I wasn’t anticipating that. I just thought I had a bad back because I wrestled my whole life, and the morning after my surgery I woke up and my back pain was gone. I thought maybe it was because I was on pain pills, but it just never came back.”
Life After Surgery
Askren said that he had accepted life with hip issues, but that it feels great now that he has had surgery.
“It’s one of those things that when you’re in it, you just feel like this is how it is,” Askren said. “You don’t think about it much and you just accept that it’s the way it is. Now that I feel good, it’s like that’s the way that I am. It’s tremendous.”
‘Funky’ is one of the most decorated American wrestlers to have fought in the UFC. He was a US Olympic Team Member in the 2008 Olympics, Pan American champion in freestyle wrestling in 2005, a two-time NCAA Division I National champion, and two-time Big 12 Conference champion. Despite his career-threatening injury, Askren wants to return to the wrestling mats, and believes he will start wrestling again in the new year. Although he thinks it’s unlikely, but not impossible, that he returns to MMA.
“I would say, never say never,” Askren stated. “I think it’s unlikely, but I’m gonna wrestle next year. Not WWE wrestle, but real wrestle. I need a reason to train and stay in shape. I love eating ice cream and everything else. I haven’t got on a scale in a year. I haven’t gotten on a scale since I fought Demian Maia over a year ago.
“If I don’t have a good reason to get on the scale, I’m not getting on the scale and I know that ain’t great for my health. I’m not super obese, but I’m definitely not in great shape right now and I can’t really train. I can ride a bike right now, that’s about all I can do with my hip but give me a few more months and I’ll be able to start getting on the mat. I’ll be able to start lightly doing some stuff.
“I’m definitely going to try and get some wrestling matches next year just so I can have a reason to stay in shape and I’m at the wrestling academy five days a week anyways, so it won’t change that much.”
Getting Back To 100 Percent
While it is highly unlikely that Askren returns to the cage in the future, he does not completely rule out the possibility completely.
“My doctor doesn’t think that anyone has had the surgery and then fought professionally afterwards,” Askren said. “He’s done a few golfers, and he’s done like 950 of these. He’s one of the preeminent guys that does them. I want to say he’s done The Undertaker, or something like that.
“And that’s one of the reasons I was excited about this specific surgery because if you do the full hip replacement, you don’t do s***. You can’t run, you can’t wrestle, you can’t grapple, you’re out on everything. With the surgery that I got, I should be able to be full go after a year.”
Would you like to see Ben Askren compete inside the Octagon again?