Ben Askren wishes he’d focused more on jiu-jitsu: ‘My potential to choke people out went untapped’

When Ben Askren turned professional as a mixed martial artist in February 2009, he did so on the heels of a remarkable amateur wrestling career.

Askren, who competed for the University of Missouri at 174 pounds, was a two-time NCAA national champion and four-time All-American after posting a career record of 153-8. What set Askren apart from his peers, however, was his dominance.

Of his 153 wins, 91 were by pinfall – good for third on the all-time NCAA Division-I list.

After a disappointing showing at the 2008 Summer Olympics, Askren transitioned to MMA, where he won titles in both Bellator and ONE Championship and remained unbeaten through 19 fights. Still, with those accolades to his credit, there is one thing Askren said he regrets about his career given his pinning prowess in wrestling.

“I never really had a great jiu-jitsu coach until really the end of my career when I found Marc Laimon. I really enjoyed him. But before that, there was really a mix of different jiu-jitsu coaches at (Roufusport), and I think that my potential to choke people out went untapped,” Askren said in response to a fan question on Twitter. “I was the best pinner in modern era of college wrestling, and I think if I would have went to work with, say, the Danaher Death Squad or Marcelo Garcia, I could have really tapped into that at a much higher level. But then at the same time, I really liked being coached by Duke (Roufus), that was going well, and I always thought, ‘Hey, I’m good enough on the ground. I need to work on the striking end of the takedowns.’ I always thought, ‘Hey, I’m going to be done in a couple of years.’ And then it just ended up so happening that I fought until effing 2019.

“If I would have put some more time into jiu-jitsu, I think I could have gotten better choking people. But, hey, that’s how it goes sometimes. That’s what I would have done a little bit differently had I been able to go back and do it again.”

Askren, 36, retired from MMA late last year. He’d originally retired as ONE’s welterweight champ, undefeated at 18-0, in November 2017, but that was short lived when the UFC and ONE Championship executed a trade that sent Demetrious Johnson to the Asian-based promotion and finally gave Askren the opportunity to compete at the highest level.

That was something Askren always wanted, but he could never convince UFC president Dana White – until the trade was executed in November 2018. Askren went 1-2 in the UFC, beating Robbie Lawler by controversial technical submission in his promotional debut before being finished by Jorge Masvidal and Demian Maia in his next two fights.

When he looks back on his overall career path, Askren said he has no regrets.

“As far as the career path I took, had I been able to foresee the future, I don’t think (I’d change anything),” Askren said. “When I was 3-0, and Bellator offered me that deal, I thought that was a really great deal. I thought it was an outstanding opportunity, which it was. Right? My time in Bellator went really well, and at the end of that, when my negotiation came up, it didn’t work out with Dana and the UFC. To this day, I still don’t know why. So I couldn’t change that.

“I found a great home in ONE Championship. Everything went well there. I retired, I came back, so from that perspective, I wouldn’t change anything.”

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UFC 252 Embedded, Episode 2: ‘Hey, get the f*ck out of my pool’

In the second episode of UFC 252 Embedded, Sean O’Malley gets his hair done and packs up for his trip to Las Vegas, Daniel Cormier arrives in Sin City and gets in a sparring session, Stipe Miocic gets some pool time with his daughter and wife, and more.

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Yoel Romero Withdraws from UFC on ESPN 15 Co-Main Event

Yoel Romero has withdrawn from a proposed bout against Uriah Hall at UFC on ESPN 15. View full post on Recent News on Sherdog.com

Unfiltered: Junior dos Santos, Jim Miller, and Luis J. Gomez

On today’s episode of UFC Unfiltered: Junior dos Santos, Jim Miller, and Luis J. Gomez

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Felice Herrig’s first children’s book is out the week of her UFC 252 return

This was going to be a big week for Felice Herrig one way or another, but it turned out to be doubly big.

Approaching two years since she most recently fought, Herrig (14-8 MMA, 5-3 UFC) finally will step back in the cage Saturday against Virna Jandiroba (15-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) at UFC 252. She’s been sidelined recovering from an ACL injury and will be trying to snap a two-fight skid.

But adding to her excitement this week is the release of her first book, which is out Tuesday. Herrig wrote “The Lil’ Bulldog: Lemons into Lemonade,” a children’s book based on her recent injury recovery with D.M. Eason. And as an added bonus, the book is illustrated by Herrig’s father, Kirk Herrig.

“Lemons into Lemonade” is available through Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and an additional 39,000 retailers through Ingram’s Lightning Source publishing service, according to Herrig’s longtime management team at SuckerPunch Entertainment.

Herrig said the book’s release timed to her UFC 252 fight week wasn’t intentional, though.

“The timing of it was purely coincidental,” Herrig posted on Instagram. “Although I like to look at the little signs life gives me telling me I’m on the right path.”

Here’s what a news release for the book has to say about Herrig and the book:

With the same super tenacious, always moving forward, pushing the pace style that makes her a fierce competitor in three fighting sports, professional mixed-martial artist Felice Herrig reminds young fans that in the Octagon and in life, sweet victory follows on the heels of a positive attitude and dogged determination. In her new children’s picture book, The Lil’ Bulldog, Lemons into Lemonade, the cartoon version of The Lil’ Bulldog wins another big fight, but an injury threatens to sour her victory. Instead of throwing in the towel, she works her way back while learning new things with the help of Quinn the Cat and a host of animal friends.

Publishing the book marks a deeply personal accomplishment for Herrig.

“I come from a very artistic family, but my dad just has this raw gift when it comes to illustrating,” Herrig says. “When I was seven years old, my two-year-old brother died of pancreatic cancer, and my dad hasn’t really drawn since around that time. I knew approaching this book that I wanted my dad to do the illustrations. It wasn’t until the quarantine (coronavirus) that I convinced him to draw again. That’s when my dad and I started developing characters. And of course we are dedicating the book to my brother who passed away.”

A world class kick boxer, Muay Thai fighter, and mixed martial artist, Felice Herrig has earned multiple amateur and professional titles in more than 30 boxing and kickboxing matches and 24 MMA fights. She’s paved the way for women to compete and be recognized on shows like Fight Girls, Chuck Norris’s World Combat League, Ultimate Fighter 20, and American Ninja Warrior. And she blazed a trail for female fighters as one of the first strawweights signed to the UFC. With her debut children’s picture book, The Lil’ Bulldog, Lemons into Lemonade, she hopes to inspire young fans to stick to their dreams, no matter what.

UFC 252 takes place Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN/ESPN+.

The Blue Corner is MMA Junkie’s blog space. We don’t take it overly serious, and neither should you. If you come complaining to us that something you read here is not hard-hitting news, expect to have the previous sentence repeated in ALL CAPS.

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Tyson vs. Jones Jr. event adds Badou Jack vs. Blake McKernan, UFC vet Rashad Coulter in action

Former UFC fighter Rashad Coulter meets Viddal Riley in a boxing match on Nov. 28 in Carson, Calif. | Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The upcoming Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr. pay-per-view event is set to feature a little bit of everything, including a pinch of MMA.

Triller, the social media platform that is marketing the upcoming exhibition boxing bout between Tyson and Jones Jr., has announced several new bouts for the event that is now expected to take place on Nov. 28. It was originally scheduled for Sept. 12 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif., but the date was changed for undisclosed reasons. It is not yet known whether the event will still be held at the originally announced venue.

UFC veteran Rashad Coulter fights England’s Viddal Riley (4-0, 2 KOs) in an eight-round bout scheduled for 210 pounds. Coulter, 38, holds a 9-5 record in MMA including a 1-3 stint with the UFC, where he competed at heavyweight and light heavyweight. He parted ways with the UFC following a unanimous decision win over Yaozong Hu in November 2018.

“Daywalker” has one pro boxing bout on his record, a first-round knockout of Armando Herrera Jr. at a show in Fort Worth, Texas, in June 2015.

In addition to boxing, Riley, 23, is known as a popular internet personality and is currently signed to Mayweather Promotions. In his most recent outing in February, he defeated Muhammad Abdullah by four-round unanimous decision.

Former two-division boxing champion Badou Jack (22-3-3, 13 KOs) has also been announced for the card. He faces Blake McKernan (13-0, 6 KOs) in a 192-pound bout.

Rounding out the main card is a previously announced 188-pound bout between YouTube star Jake Paul and three-time NBA dunk contest champion Nate Robinson. Despite Paul recently making headlines for weapons being seized from his home following an FBI raid, no official word has been given on a possible cancellation.

Tyson-Jones Jr. was originally reported to carry a PPV purchase price of $49.99, but it is not known if that price has changed along with the new date.

See the updated card for Tyson-Jones Jr. below:

Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr.

Jake Paul vs. Nate Robinson

Badou Jack vs. Blake McKernan

Viddal Riley vs. Rashad Coulter

Jamaine Ortiz vs. Jesse Garcia

Irvin Gonzalez vs. Edward Vazquez

Giuseppe Cusumano vs. Nick Jones

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Bellator 244 Update: Weber Almeida to Face Salim Mukhidinov on Preliminary Draw

A featherweight matchup has been added to the Bellator 244 preliminary lineup, as Weber Almeida will lock horns with Salim Mukhidinov on Aug. 21. View full post on Recent News on Sherdog.com

TJ Laramie’s Top 5 Fights

Look back at TJ Laramie’s Top 5 fights before he steps into the Octagon at DWCS on Tuesday

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Trevor Wittman gives an inside look at Kamaru Usman and Rose Namajunas leading up to UFC 251

It was a successful night at the office for head coach Trevor Wittman at UFC 251.

Wittman, who was in the corner of both his longtime student Rose Namajunas and UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman on July 11, launched a video series to give a behind-the-scenes look at both fighters leading up to their fights.

Former UFC strawweight champion Namajunas exacted her revenge against Jessica Andrade, who took the title away from her in a spectacular comeback win at UFC 237. Although Andrade made adjustments the second time around, Namajunas proved to be too fast and too technical for her.

Wittman was also in the corner of Usman, who headed to Colorado for his training camp when he was scheduled to face his Sanford MMA teammate Gilbert Burns. Burns ended up pulling out due to a positive COVID-19 test and was replaced by Jorge Masvidal. Usman defeated Masvidal in a one-sided unanimous decision, making Wittman 2-0 for the night.

Check out the first episode of Wittman’s video series, which features Namajunas’ journey to Abu Dhabi and Usman’s quarantine period in Las Vegas.

The Blue Corner is MMA Junkie’s blog space. We don’t take it overly serious, and neither should you. If you come complaining to us that something you read here is not hard-hitting news, expect to have the previous sentence repeated in ALL CAPS.

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Undefeated Weber Almeida returns against Salim Mukhidinov at Bellator 244

Brazilian featherweight Weber Almeida (red gloves) is 3-0 with a trio of knockouts in the sport | Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Bellator has scheduled unbeaten Brazilian karate specialist Weber Almeida’s next appearance in the circular cage, matching him up against featherweight Salim Mukhidinov on the preliminary portion of Bellator 244 on Aug. 21, MMA Fighting has learned.

Almeida (3-0) is a training partner of former UFC champion Lyoto Machida and—just like “The Dragon”—brings a karate background to the mixed martial arts world. Almeida, who turns 33 in December, won both of his Bellator bouts by knockout in 2019.

Mukhidinov (7-4) is an American Kickboxing Academy product with a pair of appearances under the Bellator banner, a promotional debut victory over Adel Altamimi followed by a split decision loss to Cris Lencioni earlier this year. The Tajikistani fighter has won four of his seven fights by stoppage.

Bellator 244 takes place at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., and features two-division champion Ryan Bader defending his light heavyweight title against Vadim Nemkov. In the co-main event, former featherweight queen Julia Budd battles Jessy Miele.

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Dana White’s Contender Series 2020 Week 2 Play-by-Play & Results

Sherdog’s live DWCS 2020 Week 2 coverage kicks off Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET. View full post on Recent News on Sherdog.com

Dynamic Dozen: UFC Trilogies Part II

Take a look back at some of the greatest three-fight series that have graced the Octagon

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John Makdessi, Nasrat Haqparast spark up beef as they angle for a rebooking

John Makdessi and Nasrat Haqparast are eager to settle their differences in the octagon.

The pair were scheduled to fight in March 2019, but Haqparast was forced out due to injury. Makdessi faced Jesus Pinedo instead and beat him by unanimous decision.

Since then, Makdessi (17-7 MMA, 10-7 UFC) suffered a unanimous decision loss to Francisco Trinaldo at UFC on ESPN+ 28 in March. Haqparast (12-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC) has gone 2-1 and most recently rebounded from his first-round stoppage loss to Drew Dober at UFC 246 with a unanimous decision win over Alex Munoz at UFC on ESPN+ 32 this past Saturday.

But Makdessi made sure to let Haqparast know what he thought of his performance and it’s safe to say, he wasn’t impressed.

Congratulations another snooze fest Sleeping face in the books.”

Haqparast was quick to fire back, calling for their fight to be rebooked as soon as possible.

You get the ass whooping next @JohnMakdessi. Back up your words now big mouth. I will wait for you – and after I’m done with you I will left you with a broken bloody face.”

Makdessi is a 17-fight UFC veteran who’s competed against the likes of Donald Cerrone, Yancy Medeiros and Ross Pearson. He continued to go back-and-forth with Haqparast, reminding him of the difference in experience level.

My man do your homework I fought championship fighters. He fought nobodies. #norespect”

It’s been more than a year since these two lightweights started going at it, but they are yet to fight. With Makdessi winning three of his past four and Haqparast four of his past five, now seems like a perfect time for them to finally throw down.

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Roosevelt Roberts vs. Matt Frevola on tap for UFC event on Sept. 12

UFC Fight Night: Miller v Roberts

Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Roosevelt Roberts and Matt Frevola are scheduled to compete once again.

Multiple people with knowledge of the promotion’s plans confirmed to MMA Fighting that the lightweight matchup will take place at the UFC’s event on Sept. 12 following Frevola’s announcement of the bout on his Instagram page. The card is expected to take place at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas.

Roberts hopes to get back on track after having his two-fight winning streak snapped by Jim Miller at UFC on ESPN 11 in June via first-round submission. Prior to that, “The Predator” picked up a unanimous decision win over Alexander Yakovlev in November, along with a second-round submission victory over Brok Weaver at May’s UFC on ESPN 9 event.

Frevola was scheduled to meet his upcoming opponent in April at UFC Lincoln before the event was scrapped due to COVID-19 concerns. “Steamrolla” is unbeaten in his last three appearances, including decision wins over Jalin Turner and Luis Pena. Frevola was set to face Frank Camacho at UFC on ESPN 11 but was forced to withdraw after cornerman Billy Quarantillo tested positive for the coronavirus.

The UFC’s Sept. 12 event will be headlined by a pivotal light heavyweight bout between Glover Teixeira and Thiago Santos.

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UFC Vegas 6 scorecard

Recap the big winners from UFC Vegas 6

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Youssef Zalal wants to keep making the most of big opportunities after UFC on ESPN+ 32


LAS VEGAS – Youssef Zalal beat Peter Barrett with a unanimous decision Saturday on the preliminary card at UFC on ESPN+ 32 in Las Vegas.

Take a look inside the fight with Zalal, who moved to 3-0 with three decision wins in the UFC since signing earlier this year.

Result: Youssef Zalal def. Peter Barrett via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
Updated records: Zalal (10-2 MMA, 3-0 UFC), Barrett (11-4 MMA, 0-1 UFC)
Key stat: Zalal more than doubled up on Barrett in the striking department, 85-41, and had nearly six and a half minutes of control time on the canvas.

Zalal on the fight’s key moment

“I feel good! I had a lot of things to prove to myself from that last fight, so I came in today – I don’t know if you guys saw me in the corner just talking to the coaches. I really didn’t listen in the last fight. It kind of messed me up. I’m young. I just learn every day and every fight. So I did a lot better than the last fight. I’m happy with that. I wish I got a finish. I’m so mad that I didn’t get a finish, but you move on to move on.”

Zalal on making the most of his opportunities

“This is my second fight in six weeks. It just shows the hard work that we did for the past, I don’t know how many years. I’ve got an amazing team, amazing people around me. I’m blessed and grateful for the opportunities. These opportunities don’t come around that often, so when you have the chance, you take them.”

Zalal on what he wants next

“Before 2020, we sat down with the coaches and decided it was really time to go and grow, really just push it, and see where life takes us. We never knew we would have three fights in 2020. We just went with the flow and really focused on getting better as a mixed martial artist – as a person in general. So for me, that was the main focus and fights came to me. I didn’t really have to rush for fights. Fights came in and I took them. I took the opportunities, and thank God – I’m grateful and blessed that I’m doing great.”

To hear more from Zalal, check out the video of the full post-fight interview above.

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Video: UFC 252 Embedded, Episode 1: ‘That felt more exhilarating than knocking out Eddie’

In the first episode of UFC 252: Embedded, headliners take center stage: Ex-champ Daniel Cormier faces his dislike of cold water and indicates his wrestling is going to win his triology with Stipe Miocic; Sean O’Malley trains for Marlon Vera in a humid warehouse and does a little Twitch streaming for his fans; and Stipe Miocic gives a tour of his man cave and a reveals a fondness for print media.

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Ashley Yoder Keen On Finding Her Groove

Even though wins haven’t been easy to come by for Ashley Yoder, she is confident she can still find her way in the Octagon.

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Nasrat Haqparast credits newfound maturity for win over Munoz

LAS VEGAS – Nasrat Haqparast beat Alexander Munoz with a unanimous decision Saturday on the preliminary card at UFC on ESPN+ 32 in Las Vegas.

Take a look inside the fight with Haqparast, who handed Munoz the first loss of his pro career.

Result: Nasrat Haqparast def. Alexander Munoz via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Updated records: Haqparast (12-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC), Munoz (6-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC)
Key stat: Haqparast doubled up on Munonz in the striking department, 81-40.

Haqparast on the fight’s key moment

“It was for sure a very big moment for me personally. I had a lot of pressure and I really just wanted to show my real skill set. In my last fight against Drew Dober, I was immature. I wanted to kill him – my emotions took the best of me. Today, I really got to show my skill set and it’s just the beginning.”

Haqparast on not underestimating his opponent

“Alex was 6-0 and you should not forget he is the wrestling coach of Team Alpha Male. In the octagon, it’s always 0-0. It’s not the guy with the biggest experience against the other one. Sometimes we see big upsets. You should never take anyone lightly just because he doesn’t have UFC fights. It was his debut. He had a lot of pressure. He was trained for years. He was a super athlete and had a good chin. It was a good test for me just to improve my skills, improve my octagon confidence. In my opinion, I have the best team in the world. We can beat everybody with good preparation. It takes time. We will get better and I really think we have the potential to do something great.”

Haqparast on what he wants next

“Now I’ll go back to Germany, take some family time, take some rest because of some injuries, then I’ll go back to training.”

To hear more from Haqparast, check out the video of the full post-fight interview above.

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