Even if his run in UFC has not gone as planned, Ben Askren can boast of the most impressive resumes in the history of combat sports. Now, after losing his second consecutive fight in the Octagon and learning he needs hip replacement surgery, Askren has been forced to hang up his gloves for good.
“I’m retired from the sport of mixed martial arts,” Askren said Monday on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show. “Frankly, I’m retired from everything. I’ve been having hip problems, and I finally had the discussion with my doctor. I actually got the MRI before my last fight. I need a hip replacement, so that’s it for me. I’ve been thinking about this for a week and what I was going to say. Really, I’m just filled with gratitude for how great of a career I’ve been able to have, even though, obviously in the end, it did not go my way.”
Askren (19-2) had previously retired with an undefeated record in 2017. It seemed as though he would never be given the opportunity to fight in UFC and had, frankly, thoroughly outclassed the opposition afforded to him outside the Octagon, winning championships in Bellator and ONE Championship along the way.
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The former NCAA champion wrestler and Olympic team member returned to action after he was one of two key pieces in an unprecedented trade with ONE Championship that saw former UFC flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson head over to the Asia-based promotion. Askren faced Robbie Lawler in his Octagon debut this past March, picking up a controversial submission victory before suffering a five-second knockout loss to Jorge Masvidal in July and most recently a submission loss to Demian Maia in October. Askren, 35, admitted his hip issues have been ongoing for years, but an MRI taken prior to the Maia fight showed the damage had progressed to the point where he could not continue to compete.
“I’ve been having hip issues for three to five years, somewhere in there,” Askren said. “When I came back and started training in December, it got really bad. I visited my doctors in Columbia, who I kept in touch with. I went down there, got an X-ray and got a PRP shot. The PRP shot helped significantly with the pain but not with the mobility at all. They saw the X-ray and said, ‘Yeah, you’re all jacked up, but you can probably just keep going, and whenever you’re done, we’ll fix it.’
“In August, it had gotten pretty bad again. I went down and got another PRP shot, and that didn’t really help all that much. So, I consulted with my doctor and he said, ‘Why don’t you get the MRI before your fight? I’ll look at it, when you’re done with your fight, I’ll scope your hip and then we’ll give you a couple years worth of relief and you’ll probably need to get the hip replaced at some point.’ And then I got the MRI done, and he didn’t call me back. I thought that was pretty strange. Sure enough, after my fight I talked to him and he said, ‘Hey, you need a hip replacement.’ I’ve talked to three or four doctors and all of them said, yeah, once you do that, you’re pretty well done.”
Askren has been known as a big trash talker throughout his career, but has seemed to tone down in recent months. This possibly due to the humbling experience of finally losing in MMA competition but also because of an awareness his career was winding down. Askren said he’d be retiring in the near future even if the hip replacement not forced his hand, but spoke positively of the way his career has played out.
“I got really emotional the other day because I started thinking about all the great experiences I’ve had and how lucky I’ve been to have the amount of success I have,” Askren said. “From everywhere. From high school state titles to junior national titles to world teams to everything I did in college with national titles to the Olympic team to a Bellator title to a ONE title to even this UFC thing. Man, I’m grateful I got the opportunity to see if I could do it. If I never go that opportunity I think it would have eaten at me as I got older.”