Ben Askren doesn’t understand why the practice of exchanging fighters between MMA promotions hasn’t become more commonplace.
“Funky” famously arrived in the UFC in 2018 after ONE Championship exchanged him for Demetrious Johnson, the UFC’s former flyweight champion. The trade was the first of its kind in MMA, and the closest thing the sport has seen since then is the partnership between Bellator and RIZIN that has allowed Kyoji Horiguchi to compete for both promotions.
“ONE Championship, they did do a good job, ’cause I wasn’t gonna do nothing else for them,” Askren explained. ”I said, ‘I’m done.’ So, they had an asset that was gonna do nothing. I was happily retired. Then they were able to get Demetrious Johnson, who’s had a lot of fights for them. UFC, obviously, if they wanted to keep Demetrious, they would have. I think it was just one of those things that for whatever reason, their relationship just wasn’t that great… He wanted out, they let him out, and it worked out great.”
“There Should Be More Trades In MMA”
The exchange of former champions between the two promotions ended up working out quite well for both parties, albeit in very different ways.
Askren ended up fighting three times for the UFC, and his only victory was a controversial submission in his promotional debut against Robbie Lawler.
“Funky” may not have had a ton of success in the UFC, but his knockout loss to Jorge Masvidal at UFC 239 produced one of the promotion’s all-time great highlights and was arguably the catalyst for the success and popularity “Gamebred” has experienced during the last few years.
On the other side, Johnson got out to a quick start in ONE Championship with three straight victories before a shocking knockout loss to Adriano Moraes in 2021. After waiting over a year for his rematch, Johnson returned the favor when he finished Moraes with a stunning knee at ONE on Prime Video 1 to claim the promotion’s 135-pound title.
The success of the Askren/Johnson trade hasn’t inspired any other such exchanges in MMA, but Askren thinks that the sport’s major promotions should be more open to giving disgruntled fighters a change of scenery.
“Honestly, there should be more trades in MMA, there really should! I don’t know what they’re doing! Like, the only one that ever happened was awesome. Why has no one said, ‘Hey, that was really cool, why don’t we go do that again?’ It really is shocking. Even with egos, between the four more major ones (PFL, ONE, Bellator, UFC), surely there are some fighters in all those organizations that don’t wanna be there anymore. So you go, ‘Hey, we have 500 fighters and these 50 don’t wanna be here anymore, and they’re tough to deal with, so who can we go get in exchange for them?'”
What do you think of Askren’s idea that there should be more trades in MMA? Are there any fighters you’d like to see traded from one top promotion to another?
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