Ben Askren announced his retirement Monday, just a little more than a year after joining the UFC with considerable fanfare.
"I'm retiring from the sport of MMA," Askren said on Ariel Helwani's MMA Show on ESPN. "Frankly, I'm retiring from everything."
Askren, who said he's had hip issues for the past "3-5 years-ish," was coming off back-to-back losses, the most recent to Demian Maia in the main event of UFC Singapore on Oct. 26.
"I've been having hip problems, and I finally had the discussion with my doctor ... and I need a [left] hip replacement," Askren said. "So, man, that's it for me. I've been thinking about this for a week and what I was going to say, and I'm filled with gratitude for how great of a career I've been able to have, even though obviously in the end it did not turn out to go my way."
Askren, 35, gained fame quickly in the UFC, becoming one of the biggest lightning rods in the sport due to his quick wit and willingness to engage anyone in trash talk -- including UFC president Dana White.
The UFC acquired Askren as part of an unprecedented trade with ONE Championship in October 2018. The UFC sent former flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson to Asia's ONE in exchange for Askren. It wasn't a traditional trade like what would be common in team sports. The UFC agreed to release Johnson, who came to his own new deal with ONE. ONE did the same with Askren, who signed with the UFC.
Prior to the trade, Askren had retired from ONE after a 57-second TKO win over Shinya Aoki on Nov. 24, 2017. A former Olympic wrestler in 2008 and two-time NCAA champion at the University of Missouri, Askren had always wanted to ply his trade in the UFC to prove he was the best welterweight in the world. But after the UFC spurned him when he was a free agent in 2013, Askren had resigned himself to the possibility he'd never compete in the promotion.
Askren held Bellator's welterweight title from 2010 to 2013 and went on to become ONE welterweight champion from 2014 to 2017.
In Askren's highly anticipated UFC debut on March 2, he beat former champion Robbie Lawler by submission (bulldog choke) at 3:20 of the first round. The victory was controversial. Referee Herb Dean stopped the bout when he thought Lawler had gone unconscious in the choke, but Lawler immediately popped up when Askren released it and argued. Lawler had roughed up Askren earlier in that round and nearly finished him after a brutal slam on Askren's head and neck.
Following a win over Lawler, Askren was close to a UFC welterweight title shot. He might have earned it had he beat Jorge Masvidal at UFC 239 on July 6. Instead, Masvidal knocked out Askren in five seconds with a running knee. It was the quickest knockout in UFC history and propelled Masvidal to stardom.
Askren (19-2, 1 NC), a Wisconsin native, looked to get back on track against Maia in what was billed as a battle of the two top grapplers in all of mixed martial arts. Maia got the better of "Funky" via rear-naked choke submission at 3:54 of the third round.
"I don't want people to think I'm using [my hip injury] as a reason why I lost," Askren said. "I lost because I wasn't good enough, plain and simple, my opponents beat me, they were better than me. And I want that to be said out there."
Askren's legacy includes a legendary amateur wrestling career and an impressive résumé in MMA. He still holds the Bellator record for most successful and consecutive title defenses at four. Askren owns wins over the likes of Lawler, current Bellator welterweight champion Douglas Lima, UFC veteran Lyman Good and Aoki.
Perhaps more important than his victories was his ability to connect with the fan base and show class in defeat. In just 13 months with the UFC, Askren became one of the most popular and quotable fighters on the roster.
"I got really emotional the other day because I started thinking about all the great experiences I've had, and how lucky I've been to have the amount of success I've had," Askren said.