Ben Askren recalls first memories after Jorge Masvidal knockout: ‘F***, that’s Luke Rockhold. That means I’m in the hospital’


Ben Askren picked up plenty of accomplishments during his run in combat sports, but one of the most unique footnotes on his resume remains being a central figure in the only significant trade in UFC history. Askren was already the undefeated welterweight champion of ONE Championship by late 2018, when UFC negotiated a deal that would have Askren return to America in exchange for Demetrious Johnson, a flyweight legend.

The deal kick-started an unexpected final chapter of Askren’s MMA career — a three-fight octagon run most remembered for being the catalyst that propelled Jorge Masvidal into infamy. At the time, Masvidal was a 16-year MMA veteran who’d failed to break through to a mainstream audience in a significant way before his five-second flying knee knockout of Askren at UFC 239 set the internet ablaze and rocketed him into stardom. The trade and its aftermath are one of the many topics Askren delves into in-depth in his new book, Funky: My Defiant Path Through The Wild World Of Combat Sports, which publishes Oct. 25.

“Journeyman bum Masvidal was one of the most prominent players in the game,” Askren stated Wednesday on The MMA Hour . “You’re welcome, Jorge. He’s an unreceptive son of a b ****., if he doesn’t [appreciate me for that],. What about this? For the next 20 year, he must send me a Christmas greeting card. He’ll be honest, but if he doesn’t send me one, it’s not a problem. But he probably he doesn’t want to give me credit for anything, so suck it Jorge.”

More than two decades later, Masivdal’s five-second knockout is still a mainstay on UFC highlights reels. It was instrumental in Masivdal landing pay-per view headliner spots in four of his previous fights. This included back-to-back matches at UFC’s undisputed welterweight title against Kamaru Usman.

While the loss was certainly less than ideal, Askren has always taken it in stride. He appeared in post-fight media the Monday directly after the fight and has never shied away from reflecting on the knockout, regardless of how disappointing it may have been. He even recalled his first memories of his UFC 239 post-fight experience on The MMA Hour.

“My first recollection there was — this is hilarious — I sit up and I see Luke Rockhold, and I’m like, ‘F***, that’s Luke Rockhold. Askren stated that this means I am in hospital. “That was what I thought, because I knew he already got knocked out by Jan Blachowicz. Then I stand up, and I think: “What is Luke Rockhold doing?” It was something I kind of knew. I knew .”


Askren still has plenty on accolades to fill out his trophy case — two NCAA wrestling titles, an appearance in the 2008 Olympic Games, titles in Bellator and ONE Championship — so he knows there’s more to his legacy than just a couple of bad nights.

But, the trade remains a landmark in MMA history. Given that both sides seemed to have benefited from it, Askren cannot help but wonder why Johnson’s swap with him hasn’t been repeated elsewhere in major MMA.

“With the trade, the other thing about the trade that was tremendous is Demetrious, he’s still over there kicking butt,” Askren said. “But it’s like, I was retired. Honestly, ONE Championship, yeah, they did do a good job, because I wasn’t going to do nothing else for them. They had an asset, and I told them I was done. I was happily retired doing nothing. They were then able to obtain Demetrious Johnson. He’s been able — I don’t know 10 fights.

” The UFC was, in my opinion, just like they wanted Demetrious to stay if it really mattered. It was one of those situations where for whatever reason (and I suppose I would guess, but it’s not up to me because it’s too complicated) their relationship wasn’t great. Their relationship was not great. There was a lot of bitterness there, and he wanted out and they let them out, and it worked out great.

“Honestly, there should be more trades in MMA,” Askren continued. “There really should be. I don’t know what they’re doing. The only one that ever happened was awesome. Like, why has no one said, ‘Hey, that was really cool. Why not do it again ?'”

” Even with all the egos between four major organizations — PFL, ONE Championship and Bellator — there will be fighters who don’t want to fight anymore. So you’ve got to like, ‘Hey, we have 500 fighters. These 50 may not want to live here any longer, which is a problem because they are very difficult to work with. Who can we get them in return? How can we get rid of them? They don’t even want be here.’ Let’s go, let’s get rid of them. I don’t know, it seems seems reasonable.”