St-Pierre, a former two-division UFC champion and future Hall of Famer, heaped praise upon the “extremely, extremely talented” Askren, saying that he believed Askren is “one of the best welterweights in the world” and explaining how unfortunate it was that Askren’s bad blood with the UFC prevented the former Bellator and ONE Championship welterweight titleholder from ever getting his chance to compete inside the Octagon. St-Pierre added that if there’s an opponent who “would have been good to fight” in his heyday to add onto his legacy, “it would have been Ben Askren.”
St-Pierre’s comments came after “GSP” seemingly dismissed a handful of rumored big names for his next fight — Conor McGregor, both Nick and Nate Diaz, and Tyron Woodley — so it was noteworthy to hear St-Pierre speak so complimentary of Askren.
Askren has long called for his chance to test himself against St-Pierre, stating that it would be one of the only fights that would bring the unbeaten 33-year-old out of retirement.
So what did Askren think of St-Pierre’s words?
“I thought he might just say, ‘Ah, I don’t really know him,’ or whatever, but it was nice to hear him say the truth,” Askren said Monday on The MMA Hour. “Because what I’ve heard from behind closed doors is that he likes the skills that I bring.
“At the end of the day, in his heart, he’s really a martial artist, and most martial artists appreciate what I’ve done in MMA. While it may not have been the flashiest or the most creative, I brought a very unique skill set and I executed in a fashion that very few have done before me, and I think very few will do after me.”
Throughout his standout career, Askren was widely regarded as one of the best fighters not signed by the UFC. His dominant run as the welterweight king of Bellator and ONE was highlighted by lopsided wins over Douglas Lima, Andrey Koreshkov, and Shinya Aoki, among many others, and his wrestling talents are viewed as some of the best in the sport.
St-Pierre’s latest remarks kicked off a new wave of discussion of what it would take to get Askren into the Octagon and what level of interest a potential St-Pierre fight could draw.
And just as he has throughout his career, Askren isn’t afraid to put out a bold prediction.
He expects the fight to happen sometime next year, around “May or June” of 2019, and he eagerly anticipates breaking the heart of thousands of Canadians.
“There’s absolutely momentum here,” Askren said.
“All you need to know is that in 2019, I’m going to go to Montreal and I’m going to fight GSP at the Bell Centre.
“I will beat up GSP, and I will have somewhere around 20,000 Canadians booing me, and it will be a fantastic sight to see.”
There are obviously several hurdles in the road to making St-Pierre vs. Askren a reality, even if discounting Askren’s stormy relationship with the UFC.
St-Pierre’s interest would be the most important factor. St-Pierre explained that the chance to bolster his legacy, more so than any financial gains, will be the primary selling point in how he chooses his next opponent, if he does fight again. But the Canadian legend also bemoaned the fact that Askren’s “stock” never reached the value it should’ve as a result of the wrestler’s battles with Dana White, and because of that, said the Askren fight didn’t interest him because, in St-Pierre’s words, “nobody knows who [Askren] is.”
In that regard, Askren isn’t buying what St-Pierre is selling.
“He says, ‘Well I would fight Ben Askren, he’s definitely a top-three welterweight in the world, but not enough people know him,’ which essentially means, ‘We’re not going to sell enough pay-per-views, I’m not going to make enough money.’ But at this point in your life, are you caring about your legacy — which you just said in the last sentence — or are you caring about your pocketbook, which is what you’re referencing now?” Askren said.
“If he says, ‘Hey, I just want to make money,’ I don’t blame him for that. That’s fine. He wants to make money. But don’t say you care about your legacy and then you care about your pocketbook more later. It’s one or the other. Just pick one. And frankly … the UFC, what they struggle to do is market someone who’s not just a ‘stand and bang’ guy. And I reference Demetrious (Johnson) as one. He’s one of the most fantastic mixed martial artists ever. Another one that’s obvious that this guy should be a gigantic star to me is Stipe Miocic. He came in, he defended the heavyweight belt more than anyone, and he’s still just a regular guy. He goes to the freaking fire department to work.
“What is not to love? That dude should be selling a million pay-per-views every time, but the UFC marketing machine there is set up for one thing. The one thing is to market the ‘stand and bang’ fighters, and they fail to have any recognition of how to market someone who doesn’t fit in that little profile. So for me versus GSP, I think if you learn how to market me the right way — I’m undefeated, I’m an Olympian, I’m a damn American hero. I’ll sell a million pay-per-views if you’re smart enough to market me the right way.”
Another factor that could play against Askren is his contract status with ONE Championship.
Askren declined to elaborate on the subject, only seemingly dismissing it as a non-issue. He noted that ONE CEO and Chairman Chatri Sityodtong “would love for me to beat up GSP.”
Still, the biggest hurdle to a St-Pierre fight for Askren will always be his relationship with the UFC. The conversation will begin and end there until something changes.
Askren admits that “it’s going to take time” for the pieces of the puzzle to start to fit together, but he remains confident that all sides can figure something out.
“That’s just the way I work. I don’t know how else to do it,” Askren said. “I’ve be doing this since I was 15 years old. I’ve been saying crazy sh*t and then everyone says, ‘There’s no way that’s going to happen,’ and then all of a sudden it happens. And then I say something else crazy and everybody says, ‘There’s no way that’s going to happen,’ and then it happens. So literally, this has been the story of my life. I say I’m going to do something and everyone thinks I can’t do it and then I go do it.
“From winning that junior national (wrestling) title to winning NCAA titles to making the Olympic team to being an MMA champion, I’ve predicted it all. If you can’t say where you’re going, you’re not going to get there. And I’ve known all along where I’m going, and sometimes the road takes a few curves that you didn’t see, but you’re got to stay the path. And I have no doubt in my mind that it might take a little bit, but in 2019, I will fight Georges St-Pierre at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It’s going to be sold out. And we’re going to make a lot of money, Georges.”
As for the fight itself, Askren’s prediction is simple: Victory.
“Here’s what I think happens,” Askren explained, “because the one thing I have over him is I have the wrestling advantage and I don’t get tired, and that’s usually what he’s relied on in the last, say, 10 to 12 fights or so. I think he’s very tough to take down early. I think he’s very tough. I think he’s probably going to win the striking battle, but one of the things, I never take a lot of damage. I just don’t get hit a lot. That’s what I’m good at.
“And over the course of the second and third round, I start to wear him down, my takedowns become more effective. By the third and fourth round, I’ve started dominating with my top game. He’s used to being on top — he can’t get me off of top. If he does get a momentary glimpse of hope, I’m back on him, no problem. And in the fifth round, he mentally breaks and he says, ‘I can’t do this anymore, I’ve never been in this position in my life,’ and he let’s me finish him.
“TKO. He just says, ‘I’m done with this sh*t.’”