“Jake Paul, the internet personality turned pro boxer, has his next fight set, and this time he'll be competing against an actual professional fighter,” writes ESPN MMA journalist Ariel Helwani in his January 26, 2021 article titled, “Jake Paul to face UFC fighter Ben Askren in boxing match.” According to the report, “Paul will face former UFC fighter Ben Askren in an eight-round pro boxing match on April 17.” A 2008 Olympian and two-time NCAA wrestling champion, Askren is a decorated mixed martial artist having secured championship titles in both the Bellator and ONE Championship promotions. According to Arizona State University, where Askren highlighted as a volunteer assistant coach pior to venrturing into mixed martial arts, Ben is one of the most heralded wrestlers in collegiate wrestling history where he went on to become a “four-time All-American and three-time Big XII champion.”
As one of the sports original fans, throughout the years I have had the privledge to witness countless fighters come and go in the professional mixed martial arts ranks. With approximately thirty years of experience following the sport, to date the best wrestler I have ever witnessed compete in mixed martial arts is “Funky” Ben Askren. Forever immortalized on social media today as the victim of the fastest knockout in UFC history, Askren was on the tail end of his career by that point after having previously retired from the sport altogether prior to being involved in the groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind trade between the UFC and ONE Championship. The trade, revolutionary in its design saw the promotion acquire the rights to Askren in exchange for sending UFC juggernaut Demetrious Johnson to the Singapore based ONE Championship organization.
Undefeated for over a decade in mixed martial arts, a well-publicized feud with UFC president Dana White ultimately led to Askren being among the best talents in the sport not signed to the worlds premiere MMA organization for many years. Initially well received by the fans upon the news of his long-awaited arrival to the promotion, Askren went on to face a murderer's row of hand selected opponents by the UFC in an attempt to immediately challenge his undefeated 18-0 record. With Askren having picked up a crucial, yet controversial win over future UFC Hall of Famer Robbie Lawler he would go on to be eternalized by the street fighting legend Jorge Masvidal before being drowned by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace Demian Maia in what would prove to be his final appearance for the promotion at UFC Fight Night 162 back in October of 2019.
Through the use of astroturfing, or online ideological force multipliers, what essentially amounts to school yard psychology can easily be employed on a grand scale to influence the public’s perception and opinion on any number of topics in mixed martial arts to include the reputations of companies, people and even ideological causes to the satisfaction and desire of the financier's request. With careful timing, backdoor negotiations and the necessary centralized planning; the conditions can be ripe for the picking in orchestrating an all-out assault for the hearts and minds of the people into what essentially amounts to the rewriting of history itself.
The world of combat sports is a small place, within the mixed martial arts community an even narrower perspective and subculture exists where the manipulation of social media through traditional advertising and business means can create a powerful false sense of reality that for all intents and purposes amounts to the veil of propagandistic truth for the many fans who are naturally susceptible to effective marketing campaigns and advertising schemes. Today, Askren is officially retired from mixed martial arts although he hasn’t ruled out a comeback following successful hip surgery. Though to many fans, he has been written off completely following a 1-2 record in the UFC and the endless replays on social media of Askren succumbing to the record breaking Jorge Masvidal flying knee.
With an effective astroturfing campaign having cornered Askren as the victim of the fastest knockout in UFC history while simutaneously riding a two-fight losing streak in the promotion, the advantage undoubtably swings to Askren leading into his fight with social media darling Jack Paul as nearly the entire world has counted Askren out as an over-the-hill, 30-something has been with no real standup skills to speak of going into the fight. With Askren being a legitimate world class athlete, the MMA Press Room looks for "Funky" to pull away from Paul by the midpoint of the fight based on competitiveness, experience and true grit alone. While one of Askren’s biggest mistakes throughout his MMA career is not continuing to hone his standup skills and Catch-as-Catch-Can submission wrestling abilities, the fact remains that if Askren can come into this fight healthy, in shape and relatively prepared for a boxing contest he should rightfully be considered the favorite leading into the bout.
Despite what the fake social media accounts, astroturfing bots and negative Nancy's would like the legions of fans to believe, Ben Askren is an American collegiate wrestling legend with a unique style of grappling perfectly suited for mixed martial arts competition. As someone who was never afraid to speak his own mind, in many ways Askren is a victim of his own success as he sought to forge his own path in mixed martial arts with the kind of confidence and vibrato that can only be found in championship caliber athletes, celebrities and future leaders of the free world. With few mistakes made along the way, Askren will go down as a future mixed martial arts Hall of Famer regardless of how "historians" ultimately attempt to frame his UFC run. They say history is written by the victors, and if that is the case then Ben Askren will be known as an all-time great because despite the best efforts of the naysayers to wage psychological warfare on Askren’s legacy he is a multiple time cage fighting champion, former United States Olympian and perhaps the greatest wrestler to ever enter mixed martial arts competition.