Over the weekend, Ben Askren suffered the first defeat of his career, and it came in devastating fashion. Askren was knocked out in five seconds by a flying knee from Jorge Masvidal at UFC 239. The knockout blew up on social media, a deflating turn for the outspoken welterweight who was not shy about talking trash ahead of the fight. But while many in his position might try to hide from what happened, Askren is taking it all in stride.
Speaking to Ariel Helwani on Monday, Askren discussed the record-setting KO loss and his reaction when he finally came to on Saturday night.
“I’ve got nothing to hide from,” Askren said. “Mistakes happen, losses happen. Saturday night was obviously not ideal for myself, but I got nothing to complain about.
“Saturday night was the least traumatizing for me. [Laughs]. There’s a little part of my memory that’s blank there. I remember being in the cage with him, I don’t remember the flying knee. Then, when I can recall, I was like ‘Oh sh*t, I lost to Jorge Masvidal. This freaking sucks.’ [Laughs]. Everyone else was more worried about me than I was about myself. I didn’t really have any pain of any sort, not a headache, nothing in my face hurts. I was just like ‘Ah Jesus, I lost to Jorge Masvidal. How did I lose to him? How fast was it?’ I could tell it was fast cause I wasn’t sweaty or sore or anything. I knew it was fast, I just didn’t know exactly how fast it was but apparently I set a record of some sort.”
He did indeed. The knockout is now the fastest in UFC history at just five seconds. Masvidal’s plan to run across the cage and throw a flying knee worked perfectly against Askren’s plan to immediately shoot a double-leg takedown, which stings all the more because Askren said he actually thought that may happen. He just didn’t think he’d get knocked out.
“I was ready for knees, and I did say to Duke multiple times in the back room ‘I think he’s going to try something crazy right away,’” Askren said. “If you remember the Till fight, he ran across the ring and kicked Till in the balls in the first four seconds. I just had an inkling that he was going to try something right away.
“I always thought, ‘Who the hell gets flying kneed? Can’t you see that coming? It’s coming from so far away!’ When I watched the film — I don’t like Jorge at all — but that was a damn good flying knee. He hit it fast and explosively, he got some serious air time on it, and then obviously connected in the right spot. . .
“I see a few people saying Jorge got lucky. That’s not lucky. Is it gonna happen 100 out of 100 times? Definitely not but landing a knee like that takes a lot of skill. I couldn’t do such a thing. But at the same time, I didn’t get my ass kicked for 15 minutes and get stuffed on 13 takedowns and just beat up and people say ‘Oh, he sucks.’ I got caught with a flying knee. I got knocked out and there’s not much I can do about it.”
The knee was just the beginning for Masvidal though. After landing the knee, Masvidal got in two follow up punches on the unconscious Askren before the referee could intervene. Then once the bout was stopped, Masvidal mocked Askren’s unconscious body, talking to him and then falling over in a mock face plant. Many fans felt Masvidal’s behavior afterwards was out of bounds but Masvidal was clear in the post-fight press conference that he felt no remorse. That’s one thing he and Askren can agree on. “Funky” says he expected no less and isn’t bothered by anything that happened, from Masvidal or the cavalcade of MMA fans who have come out to kick him while he’s down.
“I feel like I probably deserve it,” Askren said. “I’ve been antagonizing people for about a decade now and never came up on the end of the stick. . . Fair enough. I always figured when this point happened I’d get lit up and I’m not paying attention to it but I’m sure I am getting lit up. . .
“I don’t care. It happens. I knew what I signed up for. Do I like Jorge Masvidal? No. If you asked me before the fight, ‘If Jorge knocks you out is he gonna take a few extra shots?’ I would have said ‘Yup, definitely is.’ So if that’s what he wants to do, that’s fine. . .
“I’m sure he had a lot of bad thing to say about me. That’s fine. I antagonized the sh*t out of him. That was on purpose. I was trying to first get him to accept the fight and second, make him mad. So like those extra punches, it’s fine. It’s probably what should be expected in a scenario like that.”
Askren’s candor and lack of holding a grudge is a refreshing change of pace from the usual outcome in situations like these. He even made light of the KO saying considering the speed of the loss his pay per hour was “pretty fantastic.” But just because he’s not fuming outwardly right now, doesn’t mean Askren is fine with the loss or best friends with Masvidal now.
“It’s annoying but what am I gonna do about it? Cry? Ask for a rematch? I don’t deserve a rematch, I got knocked out in five seconds,” Askren said. “What do you want me to do? Sometimes life doesn’t deal you a win. Sometimes you get your ass kicked. Sometimes you lose. You don’t have to like it but you’ve got to accept it. . .
“No [I don’t respect him now]. That guy’s a douche. No, I don’t like him. Listen, he’s a good fighter. I said he was a good fighter before I fought him. There’s no doubt about that.”
As for what’s next for Askren, that’s up in the air. This loss derails his aspirations for a title shot, at least in the immediate future. For the time being though, Askren says he’ll wait out his medical suspension and then it’s back to the drawing board to figure out his path to the title.
“Obviously I haven’t even thought of my path forward,” Askren said. “I had such a nice path set up. And I did it to myself. Jorge Masvidal was my pick. I went to London, I said I’m gonna fight the winner of Till-Masvidal and I got it. That was who I wanted to fight and that was my path to a title and I had created all this hype and momentum. I was right where I wanted to be. I was right on the precipice of having that title shot against Usman if I go and win the fight on Saturday night and now . . . I guess I’ll have to take some time to regroup.”