Former two-division UFC champion Georges St-Pierre admits that undefeated former ONE Championship titleholder Ben Askren is one of the best welterweight fighters in the world, but he doesn't want to fight him.
No, St-Pierre is not saying that he's afraid of Askren or disinterested in the challenge that he would present in a fight, but as he has consistently stated about other fighters, including Conor McGregor, St-Pierre doesn't feel that Askren has the mix of all the right elements to add to his legacy.
St-Pierre recently returned from a four-year hiatus to take the UFC middleweight belt from Michael Bisping, making him one of only four two-division UFC champions. That added to his legacy.
But as much as money means, as much as the challenge means, as much as star power means, it is the mix of the challenge and the draw that gets St-Pierre excited. Askren, despite consistently being one of the best fighters in the world throughout his career, has never been afforded the opportunity to elevate himself in the public eye to the status that St-Pierre deems appropriate as he rides his career into the sunset.
“Ben Askren, I don’t understand why he’s not in UFC, because he’s one of the best welterweights in the world. I think it has to do with maybe a problem that he has with Dana White, but he’s one of the best fighters in the world. And if there’s a guy that in my career, for my legacy, that would have been good to fight, it would have been Ben Askren, because he beat everybody. He beat all the guys in Bellator. He beat all the champions outside of the UFC,” St-Pierre on The MMA Hour. “But unfortunately, I think he had a fallout with Dana and he never had the chance to fight in the UFC. And therefore, his stock never went to the value that it’s supposed to be at.”
Askren has been successful at every level of sport. He was a four-time All-American and two-time National Champion in collegiate wrestling and made the 2008 U.S. Olympic team for wrestling. In mixed martial arts, he has never been defeated. The only blemish on his 18-0 (1 NC) record is the no contest, which happened after Askren accidentally poked Luis Santos in the eye, rendering him unable to continue. He was a Bellator champion for years before becoming a cornerstone for ONE Championship in Southeast Asia.
For St-Pierre's money, however, Askren never ascended to the highest levels of mixed martial arts in the UFC, which is where St-Pierre is considered one of the most dominant fighters of all time.
“(Askren) is a guy who’s extremely, extremely talented, a very dangerous guy, but nobody knows who he is because he’s never been exposed to the public. But he’s very good. In order to have a fight with me, I would have liked him to be exposed to the public so his stock goes up, so if I fight him, at least it’s a win-win situation,” St-Pierre said, explaining his reluctance to fight Askren.
“Otherwise, you fight a guy who’s extremely dangerous, who nobody cares about, who nobody knows who he is. It’s sad, but that’s the real way to look at it. And the reason why I’m saying that in your interview now is because I want people to be aware of who he is, I want him to have a chance to fight in the UFC, to go fight against the big dogs, the big boys of the sport, and I think he is certainly in the top five, maybe the top three in the welterweight division.”
Askren recently retired with his undefeated record intact, but has left the door open for a comeback, which would likely mean a shot at St-Pierre.
“There is one possibility for a reason that I would come back, to prove I am number one, that's it,” Askren said in Singapore. “What would motivate me is not the money, but the number one spot.”
A fight with St-Pierre doesn't appear imminent, unless Askren could first fight in the UFC and knock off the likes of Tyron Woodley. Considering Askren's admittedly poor relationship with UFC president Dana White and the UFC being unlikely to throw him into an immediate title shot even if they did ink a deal, St-Pierre is most likely off the table, as the Canadian readily admits.
“It’s not a fight that would interest me now because nobody knows who he is. Nobody knows who he is, but if they would have given him the chance to fight, to show his skill in the UFC, I’m sure he would have,” said St-Pierre.
“Ben Askren, it is unfortunate, because he is a guy that is extremely talented. I don't know what is going on with him and Dana White – I know they had a fallout – but he is very, very good. It's sad.”