Opinion: A ‘Funky’ Conundrum
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What credentials are required for a fighter to be considered the Greatest of All-Time? Beating the best in your respective division would rank highly on any reputable list of qualifications.
Ben Askren supposedly finished his mixed martial arts career with an 18-0 record after defending his One Championship welterweight title against Shinya Aoki on Friday in Singapore. One of the most dangerous submission artists in MMA history, Aoki succumbed to punches in just 57 seconds. Askren also holds victories over former Bellator MMA welterweight champion Andrey Koreshkov and current Bellator welterweight titleholder Douglas Lima. He won Bellator’s Season 2 welterweight tournament and held its title from 2010 until he departed for One Championship in 2013.
Many expected Askren to someday compete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but that has not happened. In a 2013 interview with MMAJunkie.com, UFC President Dana White indicated the promotion passed on the onetime Olympian because he needed more fights at a higher level. “I think it’s crazy that he’s ranked in the top 10,” White said. “He hasn’t fought anybody and has no challenges.” Askren eventually signed with Asian MMA powerhouse One Championship, winning the organization’s welterweight crown in 2014 and retaining it on four occasions before his retirement.
While 33 years old seems a bit young to walk away, the human body lets athletes know when their time is up; and in his post-fight interview at One Championship “Immortal Pursuit,” Askren gave a laundry list of injuries he had sustained. He all but closed the book on a comeback, except for one possibility. While he took a shot a White, Askren moved on to social media -- always a good place to stir up things -- to address the idea of facing Georges St. Pierre, a man almost universally recognized as the greatest welterweight to ever compete in MMA. St. Pierre returned from a four-year layoff on Nov. 4 and did so at 185 pounds, choking Michael Bisping unconscious to win the UFC middleweight championship. Askren admitted on Twitter that he would consider an opportunity to meet GSP: “I may do it for fun and the ability to say I told you so.”
St. Pierre has a much longer resume than Askren, and casual MMA fans are far more familiar with him. Though the argument has already been made that the quality and depth of St. Pierre’s opposition varies greatly from Askren, a fight between the two would undoubtedly spark interest. It is reminiscent of the days when fans wanted to see former Pride Fighting Championships titleholder Fedor Emelianenko climb into the Octagon to face the likes of Randy Couture in the UFC. That dream matchup never materialized for obvious reasons. However, there are different owners at the helm of the UFC nowadays, and if a St. Pierre-Askren showdown can make them some money, the possibility of it happening rises. Askren has already fanned the flames by touching base with St. Pierre on Twitter: “How’s the spring weather in Montreal? I hear it’s a nice time to test your true Martial Arts skill.”
MMA fans can only hope that this fantasy somehow becomes a reality.
Edward Carbajal serves as the lead MMA analyst for Frontproof Media and holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a brown belt in Ishin Ryu Karate. He has covered combat sports since 2014 and has been a fan of MMA since the first UFC. You can follow Edward on Twitter @Carbazel or at his website TheBlogBoardJungle.com.