‘Funky’ Ben Askren will be front and center in the combat sports universe tonight when he takes on YouTuber Jake Paul for the biggest payday of his career. Sure, there are legitimate fights happening over on ESPN inside the UFC APEX, but Whittaker vs. Gastelum is expected to draw far less viewers and attention than the circus Triller has on offer.
Askren goes into his boxing match with Paul with an 0-0 record and a reputation for not being the most deadly striker the MMA world has ever seen. The standout wrestler and former Bellator and ONE welterweight champion is the underdog against Paul, who is bigger and younger and has 2 pro boxing wins under his belt, albeit to complete novices.
One person who is not believing in Askren’s underdog status is CM Punk, who trained with Askren at Milwaukee’s Roufusport.
When asked by TMZ if he thought people were underestimating his friend, he said, “I think so, but I think it’s easy to do. It’s easy to sit on your couch and say that Ben isn’t a striker.”
“He’s a decorated athlete at a very, very high level in two different sports,” added Punk. “Mindset and mentality is a big thing when you’re fighting and Ben has that in spades. Is Ben going to come out there and look like Muhammad Ali, no probably not, but Ben knows what it takes to win a fight and the skill set in boxing and the rules are different so he’s going to approach it to the best of his abilities so he can win that fight.
“I know a lot of people are counting him out, but I don’t think anybody should be surprised if he wins.”
After a long career in pro wrestling Punk announced his transition to MMA in 2014. To everyone’s surprise, despite not having any MMA experience, Punk was immediately signed by the UFC.
Punk’s debut came two years later versus Mickey Gall at UFC 203. He lost that fight by submission in the first round. Punk got a second fight in the UFC, versus Mike Jackson, at UFC 225 in 2018. He lost that fight by unanimous decision.