Askren (18-0), an undefeated vet who was in the top five of the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA welterweight rankings before his retirement, has made it clear he will only return to competition for one fight – and that’s against St-Pierre (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC). That because he believes beating “Rush” would make him the undisputed No. 1 fighter in his weight class.
Typically, when Askren references St-Pierre, the discussion is sober, with the knowledge of the many roadblocks that stand in the way of such a fight taking place. His attitude recently shifted, though, and he now predicts it’ll occur by the end of next year.
“My main motivation is to prove I’m No. 1 in the world,” Askren recently told MMAjunkie Radio. “I think it will happen, at the Bell Centre (in Montreal). Me vs. ‘GSP,’ probably somewhere in late 2019. … I don’t need to make any more money from fighting, and there’s only one thing left to prove. I’ve been No. 1 for the past five years, and I’ve unfortunately never had the chance to prove that fight. It’s the one thing that interests me.”
Askren became a notable fighter under the Bellator banner. The Olympian and former NCAA Division I national wrestling champion dominated the organization’s 170-pound division en route to becoming champion, but he eventually parted ways with the company. Askren has repeatedly detailed his messy attempt to join the UFC, but a hostile relationship with company president Dana White and an outspoken attitude prevented a deal.
If it were up to Askren, he would have joined the UFC roster and continued his career. But negotiations went sour, and the 33-year-old felt like he’d been used. That’s when Askren signed with the Asia-based ONE Championship and pushed his career unbeaten streak to 19 fights before retiring.
The odds of seeing Askren actually fight St-Pierre seem slim on the surface. Add in the fact it’s almost guaranteed the bout could only take place under the UFC banner, and it’s hard to envision it becoming reality, especially with Askren so outspoken against the UFC’s business practices.
“(My first UFC negotiation) was so dirty, it left such a bad taste in my mouth,” Askren said. “I already didn’t want to talk to Dana. I don’t trust a damn word that comes out of his mouth. I don’t trust a word. It’s like, why did I never pursue that again? Well, it’s because the first time I got screwed over – it was just about as dirty a deal as anyone could give you. I don’t want to have that discussion again. I don’t trust them one bit.”
Time can heal wounds, though, and it’s possible Askren will eventually reach workable terms with the UFC brass. For now, though, there’s no St-Pierre fight even available to work toward; he standout French-Canadian returned from his four-year MMA hiatus in November when he scored a third-round submission victory over Michael Bisping at UFC 217 to become middleweight champion.
Just weeks after claiming the belt, though, St-Pierre was forced to vacate due to medical issues. He’s currently battling ulcerative colitis, and longtime head coach Firas Zahabi recently said he could see the disease keeping St-Pierre out of action for several years.
With that in mind, Askren’s predicted timetable for the fight seems accurately measured, and while it remains to be seen if St-Pierre will fight again, Askren said he’s in a position where he could come back any time.
“I’m 33, and I’ve taken very good care of my body,” Askren said. “I’ve never taken PEDs, so there’s no ill affects from that. I’ve never had a very major injury since college, and that was my neck, and it’s been over a decade, so I’m fine there. I’m very healthy. I’m planning on staying in good shape – not fighting shape. But I don’t see myself as being one of those guys that’s going to age very quickly.”
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Ben Askren predicts late-2019 showdown with Georges St-Pierre in Montreal