St-Pierre, a former two-division UFC champion and future Hall of Famer, heaped praise upon the extremely, extremely talented Askren, saying that he believed Askren is one of the best welterweights in the world and explaining how unfortunate it was that Askrens bad blood with the UFC prevented the former Bellator and ONE Championship welterweight titleholder from ever getting his chance to compete inside the Octagon. St-Pierre added that if theres an opponent who would have been good to fight in his heyday to add onto his legacy, it would have been Ben Askren.
St-Pierres comments came after GSP seemingly dismissed a handful of rumored big names for his next fight Conor McGregor, both Nick and Nate Diaz, and Tyron Woodley so it was noteworthy to hear St-Pierre speak so complimentary of Askren.
Askren has long called for his chance to test himself against St-Pierre, stating that it would be one of the only fights that would bring the unbeaten 33-year-old out of retirement.
So what did Askren think of St-Pierres words?
I thought he might just say, Ah, I dont really know him, or whatever, but it was nice to hear him say the truth, Askren said Monday on The MMA Hour. Because what Ive heard from behind closed doors is that he likes the skills that I bring.
At the end of the day, in his heart, hes really a martial artist, and most martial artists appreciate what Ive done in MMA. While it may not have been the flashiest or the most creative, I brought a very unique skill set and I executed in a fashion that very few have done before me, and I think very few will do after me.
Throughout his standout career, Askren was widely considered one of the best fighters to not be signed by the UFC. His dominant run as the welterweight king of Bellator and ONE was highlighted by lopsided wins over Douglas Lima, Andrey Koreshkov, and Shinya Aoki, among many others, and his wrestling is viewed as some of the best in the sport.
St-Pierres remarks kicked off a new wave of discussion of what it would take to get Askren into the Octagon and what level of interest a potential St-Pierre fight could draw.
And just as he has throughout his career, Askren isnt afraid to put out a bold prediction.
He expects the fight to happen sometime next year, around May or June of 2019, and he eagerly anticipates breaking the heart of thousands of Canadians.
Theres absolutely momentum here, Askren said.
All you need to know is that in 2019, Im going to go to Montreal and Im going to fight GSP at the Bell Centre.
I will beat up GSP, and I will have somewhere around 20,000 Canadians booing me, and it will be a fantastic sight to see.
There are obviously several hurdles in the road to making St-Pierre vs. Askren a reality, even if discounting Askrens stormy relationship with the UFC.
St-Pierres interest would be the most important factor. St-Pierre explained that the chance to bolster his legacy, more so than any financial gains, will be the primary selling point in how he chooses his next opponent, if he does fight again. But the Canadian legend also bemoaned the fact that Askrens stock never reached the value it shouldve as a result of the wrestlers battles with Dana White, and because of that, said the Askren fight didnt interest him because, in St-Pierres words, nobody knows who [Askren] is.
In that regard, Askren isnt buying what St-Pierre is selling.
He says, Well I would fight Ben Askren, hes definitely a top-three welterweight in the world, but not enough people know him, which essentially means, Were not going to sell enough pay-per-views, Im not going to make enough money. But at this point in your life, are you caring about your legacy which you just said in the last sentence or are you caring about your pocketbook, which is what youre referencing now? Askren said.
If he says, Hey, I just want to make money, I dont blame him for that. Thats fine. He wants to make money. But dont say you care about your legacy and then you care about your pocketbook more later. Its one or the other. Just pick one. And frankly the UFC, what they struggle to do is market someone whos not just a stand and bang guy. And I reference Demetrious (Johnson) as one. Hes one of the most fantastic mixed martial artists ever. Another one thats obvious that this guy should be a gigantic star to me is Stipe Miocic. He came in, he defended the heavyweight belt more than anyone, and hes still just a regular guy. He goes to the freaking fire department to work.
What is not to love? That dude should be selling a million pay-per-views every time, but the UFC marketing machine there is set up for one thing. The one thing is to market the stand and bang fighters, and they fail to have any recognition of how to market someone who doesnt fit in that little profile. So for me versus GSP, I think if you learn how to market me the right way Im undefeated, Im an Olympian, Im a damn American hero. Ill sell a million pay-per-views if youre smart enough to market me the right way.
Another factor that could play against Askren is his contract status with ONE Championship.
Askren declined to elaborate on the subject, but seemingly dismissed it as a non-issue, noting that ONE CEO and Chairman Chatri Sityodtong would love for me to beat up GSP.
Still, the biggest stumble block to a St-Pierre fight for Askren will always be his relationship with the UFC. The conversation will begin and end there unless something changes.
Askren admits that its going to take time for the pieces of the puzzle to start to fit together, but he remains confident that all sides can figure something out.
Thats just the way I work. I dont know how else to do it, Askren said. Ive be doing this since I was 15 years old. Ive been saying crazy sh*t and then everyone says, Theres no way thats going to happen, and then all of a sudden it happens. And then I say something else crazy and everybody says, Theres no way thats going to happen, and then it happens. So literally, this has been the story of my life. I say Im going to do something and everyone thinks I cant do it and then I go do it.
From winning that junior national (wrestling) title to winning NCAA titles to making the Olympic team to being an MMA champion, Ive predicted it all. If you cant say where youre going, youre not going to get there. And Ive known all along where Im going, and sometimes the road takes a few curves that you didnt see, but youre got to stay the path. And I have no doubt in my mind that it might take a little bit, but in 2019, I will fight Georges St-Pierre at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Its going to be sold out. And were going to make a lot of money, Georges.
As for the fight itself, Askrens prediction is simple: Victory.
Heres what I think happens, Askren explained, because the one thing I have over him is I have the wrestling advantage and I dont get tired, and thats usually what hes relied on in the last, say, 10 to 12 fights or so. I think hes very tough to take down early. I think hes very tough. I think hes probably going to win the striking battle, but one of the things, I never take a lot of damage. I just dont get hit a lot. Thats what Im good at.
And over the course of the second and third round, I start to wear him down, my takedowns become more effective. By the third and fourth round, Ive started dominating with my top game. Hes used to being on top he cant get me off of top. If he does get a momentary glimpse of hope, Im back on him, no problem. And in the fifth round, he mentally breaks and he says, I cant do this anymore, Ive never been in this position in my life, and he lets me finish him.
TKO. He just says, Im done with this sh*t.