Ben Askren didn’t get the result he wanted last Saturday against Jake Paul, losing via first round TKO, but the former MMA champion isn’t shying away from talking about it.
Askren spoke with Ariel Helwani of ESPN about the fight and the event, and here’s a bit of what he had to say.
On what he might have done differently
“I would have kept my damn left hand in. I just couldn’t break the habit in the time I needed to break the habit in. I fought for a decade and that was the way I fought. There was no negative repercussions from it in (MMA), I never took an overhand right in (MMA), not one time I don’t believe it. If I did, it was insignificant, it wasn’t a hard one. That was mostly because I could bait people into then attacking the body or attacking (with) the double-leg.”
On the referee’s stoppage
“I thought I was ready to fight. I told the guy I was ready to fight. But if I took my wrestling team to an opponent’s gym, a kid gets on his back, he’s not really pinned, the referee slaps the mat, and he comes over and says, ‘Coach, I wasn’t freaking pinned!’ Well, dude, we’re in the opponent’s gym, you can’t get put on your back. That’s how I feel. I was in the opponent’s gym. I feel like I was fine, and I told the official I was fine. I don’t want to draw a conspiracy theory, but yeah, I told him I was good to go. The last thing I’m gonna do is blow up at a referee over what I think is not the right call. It’s immature and there’s no efficiency to it. It’s not gonna solve anything. If anything it’s gonna get me fined by the commission. But he’s not gonna say, ‘Oh, you’re really mad at me? I guess I’m just gonna change my call.’ That’s not gonna happen.”
On Jake Paul’s power compared to the MMA fighters he’s faced
“In MMA, I didn’t really get hit a lot. The (Robbie) Lawler was significant, my face hurt the next day. It was just that spot behind the ear is where (Paul) clipped me, it put me off balance. I didn’t really feel it, right? I was just, ‘Fuck, I’m on the ground, get up.’ There’s not a lot of pain there. I don’t know, he hit me hard enough to fuckin’ knock me down. I got up, and the referee said, ‘Hey, you didn’t get up fast enough.’ He kinda landed a couple punches before that. None of them really hurt, they didn’t feel all that powerful, but again they were boxing gloves compared to MMA gloves.”
On if he felt like an outsider at the event
“I felt more like that in Las Vegas (for the press conference). ... It was really, like, the CEO was talking to Jake, and Snoop Dogg was talking to Jake, and I’m sitting over here by myself, like, ‘Let’s just do this interview and get me out of here.’ I definitely felt that way.
“But (in Atlanta) the CEO actually donated to my wife’s cousin who had childhood cancer. They sat down and talked and he said some really nice things. A handful of the Triller people were — Jake has a very big ego and thinks he can do things to whoever he wants to do things, and I could tell without them verbalizing it that they were annoyed.”
On how he felt about the Triller PPV
“I thought (there were) over-sexualized performances, and I told Tyron (Woodley) in the locker room, ‘Dude, I’m such a fucking dad now.’ Maybe I’m an old guy. ... And the second thing was, like, the glorification of weed. Listen, if you’re an adult and you wanna go smoke weed, I think that should be legal everywhere. I don’t really care at all.
“But just the glorification of it when you know kids are watching? I didn’t really love that. So that’s what I said. The guy behind the camera in the Pete Davidson interview was the executive producer, and I said to him, like, ‘Dude, I’m kind of embarrassed to be associated with this, and I don’t really like that I am now.’”
On whom Jake Paul should fight next
“Tyron (Woodley) is my obvious pick, because Tyron’s a way better boxer than I am. Like, way, way better. That’s not even really a comparison in my mind. I wasn’t good at boxing at all! My whole take was, I can put 11 weeks into this and be good enough to beat him. Tyron is actually very good at boxing. Obviously I’d like to see Jake lose. So I hope it’s Tyron.”
“If we’re talking about a smart business model for him, Tyron’s probably too big of a step up, honestly. Someone like Dillon Danis or someone who’s not very good — that’s probably the better move. I think at some point the public would push him to take a step up. I don’t think now is the time yet where they would. He may take a step up in competition, but I think the public would give him a few more where he could fight guys who aren’t quite as good and it’d be OK.”
On whether or not the fight was his biggest purse
“Yes. It’s so stupid. ... (I made) 30 percent, 40 percent (more than ever). I made more on the Jake Paul fight, just on my base purse, than all of my fight purses in Bellator combined. That’s nine wins.”