Mr. Funky Ben Askren, two-time state high school wrestling champion, won the NCAA Division I championships in 2006 and 2007, third on the all-time NCAA Division I pins list, 4-time All-American, and that’s not even half his wrestling credentials, world champion in mixed martial arts for two different fight promotions, the list is long with this guy. Funky Ben will go down as the most decorated wrestler to enter the sport of mixed martial arts. A different type of warrior gifted with the ability to grab, control, and take someone’s manhood to bring home to his beautiful family. A unique specimen of an athlete to say the least who is also very educated and speaks well. An obvious mindful approach to life is what I interpret when I hear Ben Askren speak. With all that being said, what really happened with Askren, inside and outside the UFC octagon? I don’t remember exactly when Ben first appeared or was talked about, could’ve been years before when Dana made the harsh criticism on his fighting style, however the real buzz might’ve started when it was announce he would be traded from ONE to UFC, in exchange for Demetrious Mighty Mouse Johnson. When the trade was announced, everyone who didn’t know who Ben was, now was interested and wanted to find out why the UFC is choosing him over Mighty Mouse. Did we miss something during the exchange, or are we the fans just unable to comprehend the advantages of receiving Funky Ben Askren? Regardless of the case, UFC knew something we didn’t, charismatic Ben turned out to be one of the best additions to the welterweight roster.
Not only did he come into the promotion fearless, Ben called out pretty much all the top contenders of the division, minus the champion at the time, Tyron Woodley. Woodley happens to be one of Ben’s wrestling proteges, and Ben made it clear he would be willing to fight anyone in the division, except Woodley, for obvious reasons. I believe his first buzz-worthy call-out was somewhere around October 2018, to Darren Till. After Till’s loss to Woodley, he posted a message with a picture of a fallen Till, and a caption that read: “get used to that losing feeling! Found my first victim”. He would then call-out Colby Covington by making fun of his IQ, who at the time Colby had his hands full campaigning for a fight against Woodley. After that he called-out the Nigerian Nightmare, Kamaru Usman, offering to be his huckleberry and really got under his skin to where things got heated at Bens first press conference. Ben had signed a deal to fight Ruthless Robbie Lawler, however Usman wanted Ben to keep the same energy with him backstage at the press conference. A video emerged from the altercation showing an aggressive Usman approaching Ben, who never flinched and just smiled. Funky Ben walks to the beat of his own music every time, even when a scary Nigerian is in his face, probably with bad breath. This all took place before the press conference, which he nailed by the way, as he engaged with the reporters giving everyone what they came to see, entertainment. A genuine truthful expression, coming from a guy wearing flip flops to his first UFC press conference. He gained a lot of fight fans that day, myself and Dana White included; especially after the flip flop staredown.
Dana threw Ben to the wolves, literally, in having him go up against Lawler as his first fight in the UFC. During their match, Ben showed he is cut from a different cloth, as Lawler tried to take his soul, but was unsuccessful because the Funky one refused to die. After being viciously slammed on his head by Lawler, and taking brutal pounding strikes to the face, Ben was able to stand then regain dominant position eventually putting Lawler in a bulldog choke. This would end in a controversial stoppage; although Lawler didn’t tap, referee Herb Dean felt it was right to stop the match due to Lawler’s body language. This was not the greatest win for Ben, as controversy might’ve weighed heavy on his success. Ben would continue moving forward setting his eyes on the next victim. Darren Till landed a main event fight in London against Jorge Masvidal in which Ben made an appearance to campaign against Till for a fight afterwards. The Curly Headed F%@# was born in the United Kingdom thanks to Till, but we also need to thank Ben for taking that flight to London. British fans were loving the buildup between the two more than the actual fight about to take place with Masvidal. Maybe that might’ve been the issue for Till in paying too much attention to Ben; it got him knocked out by Masvidal thereby ruining what would eventually be everything. When Masvidal knocked out Till, it was the beginning of the end for Funky Ben. Ben was told he would be fighting the winner of the two and we all know Ben thought Till was going to win. The fight between Ben and Masidal is eventually booked; Ben begins to trash talk Masvidal on social media making fun of how he talks. Ben referenced in public a training session him and Masvial had years ago in which Masvidal took offense for breaking what he considered a fighters code. In the End Masvidal would win the fight by Knockout catching Ben with a flying knee at the opening of the first round. Hard to watch for everyone except Masvidal, as Ben was laid out stiff experiencing a baptism. Ben was on social medial days later facing his fans and the haters, expressing his genuine character, even in defeat. The Funky hype train just ended, as Masvidal jumps the rail towards a BMF champioship. Ben would later sign a contract for a main event fight against Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace, Demian Maia. It was the not so classic wrestling versus jiu-jitsu but from two men highly regarding as being the best in each of their disciplines. Fans and fighters alike knew this was a match-up to determine who was the best grappler in the world. Maia would come out victorious submitting Ben in the third round via rear naked choke. It was the best fight I had ever seen Demian Maia in, complimented by Ben’s style pushing the action, earning both men Fight of The Night bonuses. Months later Ben announces his retirement from the sport and also revealing he needs to replace a bad hip he’s had for quite some time. We all wanted to see Ben again after that fight with Maia in which he displayed some pretty good maneuvers with unusual yet effective striking. What really happened with Ben Askren is he showed everyone being in the UFC is more than just being able to fight; setting a presence and being genuinely liked provides more opportunities with a bigger paycheck.