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Paul, a YouTube personality, actor and rapper who has transitioned to the boxing world and instantly become a polarizing figure, is scheduled to clash with former Bellator and ONE Championship titleholder Askren in an eight-round bout under the Triller banner on April 17. A location for the event has not been disclosed.
Due to his previous life before combat sports and the antics he’s displayed since coming over, Paul has gained a reputation for being brash and outright ridiculous. He’s poked his fun at Askren since the fight was announced, and Askren has engaged with him right back.
Paul can honestly admit that’s all just promotional fodder, though. He said he’s training hard behind the scenes and is well aware that no matter what approach he takes, he’s not going to be able to get to Askren mentally off-track before they step in the ring.
“I don’t think Ben Askren is the type of guy to have any mental weakness at all,” Paul told MMA Junkie. “He’s going to go into the fight completely confident. He’s going to be focused in on what he’s going to do. I know he’s the type of guy that likes the sh*t talk, that likes the joking. I think the content that he’s posting is funny, as well. He’s funny. He’s got a good personality. There’s still going to be a lot of sh*t talk back and forth. I don’t hate the guy, but he’s going to get his ass kicked, and he looks like a middle aged Dutch woman. I like to make fun of him.
“His striking ability sucks. He punches like a 4th grader. So there’s going to be the sh*t talk in the build up, but I’m not doing any of it to get into his head. He’s gone up against championship opponents. The Robbie Lawlers, the Demian Maias, the Jorge Masvidals – I don’t think any of those guys got into his head at all. I don’t think Ben is scared. But guess what? You don’t have to be scared of someone to get your ass kicked. He can be as prepared as he wants and as mentally ready as he wants, but the outcome will still remain the same.”
Paul is adamant he’s preparing himself accordingly to step in the ring with Askren, who will be making his professional boxing debut. In additional to standard boxing training, Paul said he relocated his camp to Miami because of the higher density of MMA fighters in South Florida who can help him get ready for the non-traditional look Askren may bring.
One of those fighters is Jorge Masvidal, who unforgettably finished Askren with the quickest knockout in UFC history with a five-second flying knee at UFC 239 in July 2019.
Masvidal may not have got much time in the octagon to feel out all of Askren’s game, but Paul said “Gamebred” offered valuable insight as to what’s coming his way.
“(Masvidal) said, ‘Look, Ben is going to try to hang onto you and wrestle you and clinch you and try to wear you out,'” Paul said. “We were just working on clinch drills and fighting on the inside, and he was trying to show me how to knock out Ben faster than he did. So, we’ll see what happens. I might go running at Ben right in the first two seconds to try to break (Masvidal’s record). But Masvidal is great. He’s very supporting. He’s always been my homie and supported me, and that goes both ways. I’m excited to see if I can knock out Ben faster than Masvidal.”
Although Paul claims he has big respect for Askren, he’s made no secret a fast win is in his mind. Askren, for his part, has predicted a seventh-round TKO in the fight, but Paul doesn’t see it going anywhere near that long.
For Askren, the fight will mark a return to competition after he retired from MMA in early 2020. He underwent a hip replacement surgery in the time since and told MMA Junkie in January that his motivation for fighting Paul was simply to make money and get himself back in top shape.
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Askren said he’s getting a lot of support going into the match, as well. He recently revealed he would soon be training with famed boxing coach Freddie Roach and will also have good friend and former UFC champion Tyron Woodley in his corner when he faces Paul.
None of that changes what Paul thinks will happen when they step in the ring together, though.
“I’m expecting a quick knockout,” Paul said. “I don’t see him making it out of the first round. I know he’s tough. I know he’s going to work hard. He can get whoever he wants to train him. People forget that Floyd Mayweather was calling Nate Robinson almost every day to give him tips and advice on boxing, and guess what? Floyd’s not getting in the ring. Freddie Roach is not getting in the ring for Ben. Tyron Woodley isn’t getting in the ring for Ben, and by the way if he did, I would beat the sh*t out of Tyron Woodley. It’s a loser training another loser. He can get whoever he wants. It’s still going to be a quick night. He can train as hard as he wants. It doesn’t matter. My athleticism, my speed, my power, my accuracy is too much for these guys to handle.”
It may sound like a cocky prediction from Paul, but he said it all stems from confidence in his own abilities. Paul only has a mere two boxing bouts on his resume. However, he’s still certain Askren can’t hang with him.
“This guy is 19-2 (in MMA), he has less losses than (Conor) McGregor, he’s a two-time NCAA Division wrestling champion, he’s an Olympic athlete,” Paul said of Askren. “I wanted to challenge myself. I know this is a serious opponent. It’s going to be a movie. Eventually I want to fight Conor McGregor – I want to show the MMA world, ‘Be careful before you come over here and try to box us.’ You saw what Floyd did to McGregor. You’re going to see what I do to Askren.”