Duke Roufus: Bad Timing Stopped Ben Askren Winning UFC Title
Ben Askren signed with the UFC one year ago as part of a trade deal that saw Demetrious Johnson go ONE Championship. Askren left the Asian promotion as the welterweight champion. As he had done his previous promotion, Bellator. And even more impressively, ‘Funky’ had achieved such a feat without losing a single MMA bout.
After a controversial win over Robbie Lawler at UFC 235, Askren went on to lose to Jorge Masvidal (at UFC ) in a highly anticipated trash-talking affair, courtesy of a 5-second flying knee knockout. This was followed by a second consecutive loss to Demian Maia in the UFC Singapore main event last month.
After the two losses, Askren announced his retirement from the sport, citing a hip replacement as the main reason.
A question mark will always hang over Askren’s head as to how he would have fared in the UFC, if he had signed with the promotion a few years earlier. There are those that believe that if the 35 year old had have signed a few years earlier, he would have added the UFC title to his collection.
One such person is Roufusport Head Coach Duke Roufus, who believes that if not for certain circumstances and bad timing, Ben would have captured his third championship in the UFC.
“He would be champion. 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,” Roufus revealed to MMA Fighting.
The American coach also backed up the hip issues that Askren disclosed in recent weeks, saying it disallowed Ben to fight at the highest level.
“It’s been bad for a while. 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.”
Recalling what transpired to Askren’s transition in the three mixed martial arts promotions, Roufus named the man he blamed for Ben missing out on fighting in the UFC at his prime.
“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. Everything worked out the way it did, I blame [former Bellator president] Bjorn Rebney, the way he treated that situation that caused Ben to not matter to the UFC,” said Roufus.
“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,” he added.
The Milwaukee-based coach has all the praise in the world for Askren, as he hangs up his fighting gloves, to explore other things in life outside the cage. Roufus explained why he has the utmost respect to the former Bellator and ONE welterweight champion.
“His stats are wonderful. 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.”
How do you think Ben Askren would have done in the UFC, in his prime?