Over a year ago, MMA standout Ben Askren announced his retirement from the sport. He had storied success in the ONE Championship and Bellator MMA promotions, winning welterweight titles and having lengthy reigns for each of them. He was also involved in a blockbuster trade that sent him to the UFC for one time flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. In the Octagon, Askren fought three fights all of last year in 2019, going 1-2. After defeating Robbie Lawler in his debut by submission, he quickly lost to Jorge Masvidal in a record:05 seconds due to a flying knee. He then lost to Jiu-Jitsu ace and UFC veteran Damien Maia by submission.
It was on November 18 last year that Askren walked away from the sport. It was when he discovered that he needed replacement surgery on his hip. Consulting with doctors learned that he didn’t need to replace his hip after all, where he underwent a different direction where the result would keep him pain-free.
It’s called a Birmingham hip,” Askren explained on MMA Fighting while appearing on the What The Heck program. “What they do is get it all cleaned up, they cap the top of it, clean up the inside, put something on the inside, but yeah. I’m pain-free but there was a whole bunch of other things: I knew a bunch of pain on my one side, and my range of motion was tied to my hip issue, but I had all kinds of back problems.”
“The day after the surgery, it was just gone. It was wild. I wasn’t anticipating that. I just thought I had a bad back because I wrestled my whole life, and the morning after my surgery I woke up and my back pain was gone. I thought maybe it was because I was on pain pills, but it just never came back.”
Askren will return to one of his stomping grounds at ONE Championship to participate in The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition. He is currently shooting the program in Singapore in an undisclosed role. He is not experiencing any discomfort since surgery and is not ruling out a comeback. Sooner than later, he’s planning to begin training again on the mat where he began his journey to becoming a US Olympian in freestyle wrestling back in 2008.
At age 36, he may have a few good years left in him should he come back. I’d he does, this will be a return to combat sports that have never been seen before in his doctor’s years of operating on his patients.
“My doctor doesn’t think that anyone has had the surgery and then fought professionally afterward,” Askren said. “He’s done a few golfers, and he’s done like 950 of these. He’s one of the preeminent guys that do them. I want to say he’s done The Undertaker or something like that. And that’s one of the reasons I was excited about this specific surgery because if you do the full hip replacement, you don’t do sh*t. You can’t run, you can’t wrestle, you can’t grapple, you’re out on everything. With the surgery that I got, I should be able to be full-go after a year.”
In a year where we have seen Khabib Nurmagomedov and Anderson Silva leave the UFC, and possibilities come up with the uncertain status of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, is it the smart thing for Askren to make another go at a sport so grinding as MMA? If so, the word “retirement” may continue to lose the meaning that it’s known to mean.
According to Investopedia.com, retirement refers to the time of life when someone chooses to permanently leave the workplace behind. If this is the case for fighters, among other public figures, then it means that they just need an extended break in order to weigh their options. Maybe Askren humanly needed to dig deep to find the time to take care of himself in a world where extreme dedication and back-breaking work like he has done has forced him to do so. If he does fight again, many will wonder if he can still be the grinder he once was when dominating the previous organizations he set foot in.