Though he won’t be competing against a professional boxer, Jake Paul has booked his first bout with an actual fighter for once. ESPN’s Ariel Helwani reports that Paul will main event his first card and face retired mixed martial artist and former amateur freestyle wrestler “Funky” Ben Askren.
The irony is that not only is Paul technically the only boxer in this bout, but that Askren is noted for his striking in the same way that Tom Brady is known for his running.
In discussing Askren back in April of 2020, mixed martial arts legend and ESPN commentator Daniel Cormier was tickled upon being asked by Helwani about Askren’s striking.
“Listen, I love Ben, he’s my boy, but I don’t know,” Cormier said, as posted by Essentially Sports nine months ago. “There was a point that I was scared — I was like ‘Ben’s about to be a world champion.’ He was undefeated; he beat Robbie Lawler. I was like, ‘This dude’s about to be a world champion, and he doesn’t even know how to fight. Ben never tried to learn to fight,” he added with a laugh.
“He was out there with Demian Maia, I’ve seen Demian Maia fight for like 15 years, and I’ve never seen him out-strike somebody like that. Dude’s just out-striking Ben Askren,” Cormier added, referring to Askren’s loss to Maia from October 2019, his last fight.
Askren rose to MMA prominence following an immensely decorated career as a freestyle amateur wrestler. Between 2004-09, Askren won gold medals at the Pan-American Games, two Big 12 Championships, two NCAA Championships, one United States National Championship, and one World Championship. He converted to MMA and amassed an 18-0 record, securing Bellator and One Championship World Welterweight Titles along the way, and engaging in a public feud with UFC President Dana White, along with building a reputation as, arguably, the best fighter in the world outside of the UFC.
And for the casual observers, unfortunately, you may most remember him from this.
So yeah, that guy is going to engage in an eight-round boxing match on April 17, per Helwani’s report. No location has been finalized, but it will be aired on traditional pay-per-view under the Thriller Fight Club banner. The full card, Helwani notes, is expected to be announced in the coming weeks, and will feature other boxers — active or retired — as well as MMA fighters, who will box, and other social media celebrities.
“I know Jake Paul is enjoying pretending he is a fighter,” Askren said, via ESPN. “I think on April 17, he is going to have a rude awakening to what being a fighter is really like. Jake has led a privileged life and doesn’t really know what the meaning of being a fighter is. I’m going to put his dreams to an end.”
Paul responded, citing that Askren’s proficiency is in another discipline, and thus, won’t elevate him but so far in their bout.
“Ben Askren is a two-time NCAA champion, a world champion in two different global mixed martial arts organizations, and has less losses on his record than Conor McGregor,” Paul said. “Me, on the other hand, I started boxing two years ago, and I’m still going to knock his ass out faster than (Jorge) Masvidal. These MMA guys think because they throw punches, they know how to box. The world complained because I knocked out a basketball player and not a real fighter. So now I’m giving the people what they want by taking on a ‘real fighter.’ After Ben Askren is added to my knockout meme collection, what can anybody say? Thank you to Triller Fight Club for giving me the platform to once again put a man to sleep. April 17, it’s lights out for Askren.”
And while Paul is correct about fighting an actual fighter for once, people can actually still refute his potential victory. Just scroll up and watch the video above. He’ll be discounted if he wins and laughed at if he loses, fairly or unfairly. If he, a boxer (by his own admission), outboxes and defeats a boxer, that’s when the discussion will change. But even so, it may not unless he defeats a pugilist of note, not a Reggie Strickland style journeyman of some sort.
Still, this will be entertaining, to be honest: Even though Askren has immense pressure from the MMA community on his retired shoulders.
(He retweeted that, too.)