One of the big questions we had once Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren was announced — properly announced, not ginned up by Chael Sonnen in Dec. 2020 — was how Paul managed to get UFC’s permission to fight the YouTube personality. Despite being retired, “Funky” is still under UFC contract, and any sporting endeavor like this requires the promotion signing off on it.
That could have potentially stopped things dead in their tracks. UFC is known for being pretty picky when it comes to giving this kind of permission, and company president, Dana White, and Askren have some history of butting heads and not getting along.
But, it turns out White was willing to give the bout his blessing after all.
“He does not seem to like Jake Paul much, that seems to be totally true,” Askren said in an interview with MMA Junkie. “We had a nice phone call. Probably the most cordial phone call Dana and I have ever had.… Both Dana and Hunter [Campbell] were relatively easy. They didn’t have any complaints. They just signed off, pretty much.”
“There was some annoyingness with (promoter) Triller looking at a whole bunch of different dates, so I had to get a whole bunch of different dates approved. That was kind of difficult a little bit, but besides that, everything was all smooth.”
When Conor McGregor stepped out of UFC to box Floyd Mayweather, the promotion took a pretty generous cut of McGregor’s purse. While Askren didn’t volunteer any details on that front, he did say the one time bout was looking to net him a seven-figure sum ... part of which we’re sure UFC is getting a piece of. That undoubtedly helped smooth over any reluctance on UFC’s side.
And maybe they just think Askren’s going to win. He may not be the best striker, but he is an Olympic caliber athlete who is more than capable of dragging Paul into deep waters, which is exactly what Askren says he plans to do.
“It’ll probably maybe be relatively competitive in the first couple rounds (until) he starts to slow down and I start to land a lot more punches, a lot of volume,” Askren said. “The seventh round I’m going to TKO him and he’s going to wish he was still a Disney kid star.”
As for all the trash talk, “Funky” seems completely impervious to it all. How could he not be, after the endless Internet taunting he’s received since losing to Jorge Masvidal and Demian Maia in his final UFC fights?
“Have you ever seen me get all that upset?” Askren pointed out. “When you realize someone is doing something simply for the sake of trying to f**k with you, why would you let him f—k with you? That’s about as stupid as it gets.”