Ben Askren’s MMA career ended with a lot of what-ifs. The highly successful collegiate wrestler of his time spent most of his professional years in Bellator and ONE FC. There is no question that the amount of talent on the roster of these organisations is noteworthy. However, one can’t help but notice a dip in the quality of competition when you compare them with UFC stalwarts.
Prior to joining the UFC, Askren had amassed a record of 19-0. That, however, failed to shut down critics who were always skeptical about how he would fare against a different level of talent in the UFC. When Askren was wrecking havoc in the welterweight division elsewhere, UFC had some of the best 170 pound fighters in George St. Pierre and Rory MacDonald.
Askren’s run in the UFC was just three fights long. Despite all of them being watch worthy, the results were not what Ben would have expected. Even his lone win came at the cost of some controversial refereeing. Askren’s coach Duke Roufus now feels that Askren would have fared much better, only if he had arrived in the UFC a few years earlier.
“He would be champion,” Roufus told MMA Fighting. “He’d be the triple champ. ONE, Bellator, and UFC. I believe that. Unfortunately, circumstances and timing don’t work out. I’ve seen him do some special stuff in the cage and in practice ever since I met Ben, it’s just sometimes timing doesn’t line up in this industry.”
The major factor that has propelled the polarizing star into retirement is the requirement of a hip replacement surgery. Though, Askren has never used the nagging injury as an excuse for his performance, coach Duke Roufus feels that it has been a factor in his dip in performance.
“It’s been bad for a while,” Roufus said. “Honestly, training camps this year were hindered due to his hip. He’s just such a tough kid, just fighting through things. Not to make excuses, but it’s definitely affected him a lot.”
“The toughest thing is timing. I wish that Ben would have been given the opportunity when he should have, to enter the UFC when he was coming out of Bellator,” Roufus said. “Everything worked out the way it did, I blame Bjorn Rebney, the way he treated that situation that caused Ben to not matter to the UFC.
“That being said, I wish Ben would have come into the UFC at that time. I think we would have seen the real Ben. Guys like myself and Tyron Woodley have talked about the special Ben, at that time he was untouchable.”
Despite how his time in the UFC lasted, coach Roufus will always have a lot of respect for him. He will always remember his protegee as someone who had a larger than life persona and someone who never backed down from challenges.
“His stats are wonderful,” Roufus said. “Two-time world champion. Impressive record. What I like about Ben is the person he is as a combat sports athlete. He grew to be a big, popular fighter, and still has his own voice and personality at the same time.
“He never backed down from anyone and that’s a really powerful statement. Ben doesn’t budge from what he believes in and what he feels and I respect that about him so much.”