‘I let him shine’: Beaten rival Askren claims credit for helping Masvidal rise to stardom after savage 5-second KO
Former foe Ben Askren says he deserves credit for “letting Jorge Masvidal shine” as the UFC welterweight fan favorite prepares for his title shot against Kamaru Usman on ‘Fight Island’ this weekend.
Masvidal rendered Askren unconscious with a flying knee just seconds into their grudge match at UFC 239 in July of last year, in what has become one of the most iconic – and widely shared – moments in MMA history.
— Chamatkar Sandhu (@SandhuMMA) July 6, 2020
The incident has gone down in UFC folklore as a record-breaking KO, but has also helped propel Masvidal along a spectacular ascent from something of a journeyman into genuine title contention when he faces reigning 170lbs king Usman as a short-notice opponent in Abu Dhabi at UFC 251 this weekend.
Prior to dispatching Askren, Masvidal had knocked out Darren Till on home soil in a massive upset in London, and has since picked up the inaugural ‘BMF’ title by defeating fellow crowd-pleaser Nate Diaz.
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Askren, though, claims it was his brutal defeat to Masvidal which really put ‘Gamebred’ on the path to MMA superstardom.
“I put the spotlight on him… his Twitter followers, his Instagram followers, it went five times extra. I put the spotlight on him. I played the foil to him. I let him shine,” he told ESPN.
“Unfortunately, I thought I was going to crush him. You know, he says some of these things like the ‘three-piece and a soda’ that maybe he isn’t intentionally funny, but again it’s really authentic and people love that.”
Askren and Masvidal had traded barbs in what had been a particularly personal build-up to their octagon encounter, which manifested itself with Masvidal hammering blows on Askren even while he was out cold from taking a knee flush to his chin.
Askren said that Masvidal had been a “douche” for the incident, but also reflected that there was a perverse humor in it.
“When he said f-ing ‘super necessary,’ which I feel like he was kind of a douche for punching me when I was already unconscious – that was just unnecessary, but he says it was ‘super necessary.’
“You know what? It was kind of funny. I was the dude that got punched, [but] that was Jorge being real, and that was kind of funny.
“I thought he was a douchebag for punching me when I was unconscious, it was kind of funny. So, yes, there is a certain authenticity to Jorge that people really, really enjoy. When people start getting fake, they start their demise.”
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While Askren has since called time on his career, citing the need for hip surgery, Masvidal now has the shot of a lifetime against the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ Usman on Yas Island in the UAE capital.
Masvidal stepped in to headline a stacked card after initial Usman rival Gilbert Burns was forced out due to a positive Covid-19 test.
True to form, Masvidal arrived in Abu Dhabi this week on a private jet and wearing a pink Versace bathrobe, having stopped off in Rome and picking up some pizza along the way.
While he has cut a typically relaxed figure this week, 25-year-old Masvidal will still be in fighting shape come Sunday morning when he faces Usman across the octagon, according to Dustin Poirier, whom he trained with ahead of the latter’s fight with Dan Hooker at the end of June.
“It’s short notice because he didn’t have a contract, but let me tell you something – this guy was there for my whole training camp,” Poirier said this week.
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“Even when (an initial Masvidal-Usman match-up) fell through at the end of my training camp and (the UFC) gave it to Burns, Jorge was still in the gym every day like he had a fight.
“I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people with the kind of shape he’s in and his timing is going to be good because he was in my camp the whole time.
“He’s in fight shape. This isn’t a guy coming off the couch. He was preparing to fight Usman, it fell through and he kept training,” Poirier added.
Masvidal enters the fight against Usman as underdog, with the latter going undefeated in a 15-fight streak spanning seven years.
But should Masvidal pull it off and reach the summit of the sport after 17 years in the game, there will be no more popular champion than the Miami fighter.