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Askren, a former Bellator and ONE Championship welterweight titleholder who retired in early 2020 after going 1-2 in the UFC, is coming back to combat sports this year to fight YouTube star Paul in an eight-round boxing match on April 17.
It’s something Askren is excited to do, he said, because it’s going to provide a seven-figure payday, force him to get back into shape following a hip replacement surgery and, most importantly, give him a chance to silence Paul, who argues is not a “real fighter.”
Before signing on, Askren, who remains under UFC contract, had to receive permission from the organization. His rocky relationship with White in the past has been noteworthy, but he said it was not an issue and the UFC boss didn’t stand in his way.
“He does not seem to like Jake Paul too much, that is seeming to be totally true,” Askren told MMA Junkie on Thursday. “We had a nice phone call. Probably the most cordial phone call Dana and I have ever had. … Both Dana and Hunter (Campbell) were relatively easy. They didn’t really have many complaints. They signed off on pretty much – there was some annoyingness with (promoter) Triller was looking at a whole bunch of different dates, so I had to get a bunch of different dates approved, so that was kind of difficult a little bit, but besides that, everything was all smooth.
Askren said he’s not going into the bout with Paul with any disillusions. He’s firm in his stance that this is a singular venture, and that he’ll only, “lace up the gloves one time to beat up a YouTube star.”
Opening odds for the matchup list Paul as a slight betting favorite. Askren said he’s not getting too wrapped up in the court of public opinion, but admits he does fight the questions about his durability going into a fight against Paul to be surprising, especially given what he knows about his own experiences through countless hours of training with elite fighters.
“The one thing that is most annoying – and I try to never get annoyed with what people are saying because I know people on the internet are very stupid so I try to kill them with indifference as I learned when Aaron Rodgers says – in my entire MMA career, in all the sparring I’ve done in my career in the gym, I’ve been rocked one time and it was against Jorge Masvidal,” Askren said. “That was it. I never got buckled, I never got clipped, I never got knocked down. The notion that I’m easy to hit or easy to knock down is ridiculous. I don’t think you could say very many fighters that have had 20-plus fights that have never been knocked down or knocked out one time in their entire career.”
During his brief stint on the combat sports scene, Paul has made it abundantly clear there’s no line he’s not willing to cross in terms of pre-fight build up. He’s already walked a fine line with Askren, making multiple mentions of his wife and following her on Instagram.
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Askren said nothing Paul can do has the capability of riling him up, and he’s going to take it all in stride.
“Have you ever seen me get all that upset?” Askren said. “When you realize someone is doing something simply for the sake of trying to (expletive) with you, why would you let him (expletive) with you? That’s about as stupid as it gets.”
Shortly after the fight was announced, Paul made his official prediction of a knockout win in four seconds or less, an attempt at trolling Askren over his infamous five-second loss to Masvidal. Askren came back with a counter-prediction, stating he would win by TKO in the seventh round.
Askren likes the idea of punishing Paul, he said, and showing the YouTube star that there’s a big difference stepping into the ring with someone who – even without any professional boxing fights – has a long history in the combat sports world.
“It’ll probably maybe be relatively competitive in the first couple rounds (until) he starts to slow down and I start to land a lot more punches, a lot of volume,” Askren said. “The seventh round I’m going to TKO him and he’s going to wish he was still a Disney kid star.”