Three “Huh?” Moments in MMA Last Week: Sept. 11 Edition

Cris Cyborg MMA UFC
Credit: Gleidson Venga/

One of the top welterweights in MMA is headed toward retirement, one of the top female fighters in MMA is headed toward boxing, and Canada can’t catch a break when it comes to UFC pay-per-view main events. Huh?

Finding the proper response to much of the news finding its way into our social media feeds is becoming a tougher task every day. Nothing is surprising, and there’s always more to the story. Leaving us with one reply: “huh?”.

Last week, the final fight of ONE Championship welterweight title-holder Ben Akren’s career was announced. He may not be the only high-profile fighter moving away from MMA, as Cris Cyborg revealed that she intends to pursue a boxing career. Meanwhile, a major UFC event in Canada once again faced issues with one of their most important fights.

The reason “huh?”, in its various forms, is such a quality reply is simple. The word is as versatile as a response gets, and while it may require some explanation, “huh?” is sometimes the only way to react to the news of today. Defined by Merriam-Webster as an interjection that’s “used to express surprise, disbelief, or confusion, or as an inquiry inviting affirmative reply”, “huh” or “huh?” can mean a lot of different things.

Despite some of the follies of human evolution (see: Equifax), the development and growth of “huh” is something we should embrace. To be the change we want to see in the world, here are a few MMA stories last week that made us go “huh?”.

Ben Askren to fight once more in ONE Championship before retiring

One of the premier welterweights in all of MMA, Ben Askren, has one more fight in him before calling it quits. Huh?

The 33-year-old former Bellator MMA welterweight champion, and current ONE Championship welterweight titleholder, Askren is considered one of the best fighters at 170-pounds in the world. Following-up his incredible run in collegiate wrestling at the University of Missouri, Askren went on to compete at the 2008 Summer Olympics before making his professional MMA debut in February of 2009.

Now, with a record of 17-0, and one no contest due to an eye-poke in April of 2015, Askren is looking ahead to life away from fighting. Rather than fighting, Askren will be joining the likes of Rich Franklin and Matt Hume in an executive role with ONE Championship. But before that, he’ll fight Japanese legend and former Dream and ONE lightweight champion Shinya Aoki in November.

“In what will be a ferocious contest between two great white sharks, Shinya Aoki and Ben Askren have decided to lay it all on the line” ONE Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong said in a statement. “Win or lose, this fight will be Ben’s last. Ben has made the decision to retire after this fight to become an executive at ONE. You do not want to miss this mega event in Singapore!” – via Cageside Press

It’s no secret, but oftentimes, the goal in the fight game is simple. Get in, make some money, and leave with as much of your health as possible. Given his lengthy collegiate career, and fighting multiple times a year more often than not during his time in MMA, Askren’s move makes sense. It’s been in the works for a while, according to an Askren interview with ESPN from a couple of years ago. Huh.

“I’m coming to a point in my career where within the next couple years, the question becomes, ‘Can you hang it up at the right time?'” Askren told “There’s not a lot of people who have been able to do that, in any sport… most guys fight beyond their prime, and it’s not always a good thing.” – via ESPN

Cris Cyborg has a boxing license

Recently crowned UFC women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg is already looking ahead to another combat sports career. Huh?

First reported by MMA Fighting, Cyborg applied for and was granted a boxing license by the California State Athletic Commission, as well as a federal boxing ID. Intending on competing in the 154-pound junior middleweight division, Cyborg shared details of her decision to pursue boxing with Ariel Helwani. Those details include things like an expiring UFC contract this October (sort of), and that the promotion is working on a featherweight bout between Cyborg and Holm at the moment.

So, Cyborg has a boxing license, a drive to pursue it, and her UFC contract is up next month. On the surface, it looks like a situation a million times easier to piece together than the mess that was Mayweather-McGregor. But, given the details of the situation, Cyborg’s boxing career and her alleged pursuit of such is something we shouldn’t be expecting.

In July, the UFC finally got the women’s featherweight title on the person they created it for, several months after they initially planned. Now that they have it on her, one of the few major draws in the promotion, they aren’t going to let her go make money without them involved. Just a few weeks removed from Mayweather-McGregor, Dana and Co. aren’t anywhere near ready or willing to sign-up for another non-MMA headache concerning one of their few stars.

Oh, and the UFC has an exclusive one-year negotiating period with Cyborg, since she’s one of the promotion’s champions. Unless she’s willing to play chicken with the UFC throughout the next 12-months, the boxing license is a non-starter. She’d risk never competing in MMA’s premier promotion again, after fighting so hard to get (and stay) there, for an uncertain career in boxing. See how dumb that sounds?

It’s more likely Cyborg is utilizing her ability to draw and diverse skillset, McGregor’s recent success in boxing, and her contract expiration as a way to ensure her next contract is better than her current one. As she should. The 32-year-old has faced her fair share of issues in various aspects of combat sports, and she’s finally found some solid ground as UFC featherweight champion. She knows she’s one of the few top-tier draws in the promotion, and deserves to be paid as such.

Expect Cris Cyborg to fight Holly Holm for the women’s 145-pound title in the UFC later this year, and ignore the white-noise of public negotiation that ‘news’ like this contributes to.

Poor, poor Canada…

The Canadian Curse continued this week, as yet another major UFC PPV in the country lost their main event. Huh?

Following the trend set by UFC 206, 186, 161, and more, fans in Edmonton weren’t treated to the main event they initially expected at UFC 215 last weekend. Instead, they were given the initial main event from UFC 213 earlier this year: Amanda Nunes-Valentina Shevchenko II. A solid substitute, to be sure, but what’s wrong with Canada?

Numbers are one thing. Here are the actual main event fights Canada has missed out on over the years:

  • Demetrious Johnson-Ray Borg – UFC 215 Flyweight title-bout
  • Daniel Cormier-Anthony Johnson – UFC 206 Light Heavyweight title-bout
  • TJ Dillashaw-Renan Barao – UFC 186 Bantamweight title-bout
  • Renan Barao-Eddie Wineland – UFC 161 Interim Bantamweight title-bout
  • Jose Aldo-Erik Koch – UFC 149 Featherweight title-bout
  • Brock Lesnar-Junior dos Santos – UFC 131 Heavyweight bout
  • Chuck Liddell-Tito Ortiz 3 – UFC 115 Light Heavyweight bout

They’ve had better luck with non-PPV cards, getting main events like Rory MacDonald-Stephen Thompson, Demian Maia-Carlos Condit, and Travis Browne-Derrick Lewis in recent years. They’ve also been treated to main events that actually happened, including Demetrious Johnson-Ali Bagutinov at UFC 174, Jon Jones-Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165, and Georges St. Pierre-Nick Diaz at UFC 158.

But when you get a PPV event, you want the crown jewel that comes with it. Preferably, with a ratio of successful main events in a specific place to be better than the UFC’s recent run in Canada. Here’s to better luck for our friends up North, and for major main event success in the future. Maybe Canada’s Superman Georges St. Pierre will make a main event appearance in 2018.

Ben Askren only has one more MMA fight in him before he heads to retirement, while it’s more likely that Cris Cyborg has several MMA fights before she seriously pursues boxing. Either way, both fighters may want to avoid being slated for a UFC main event in Canada, as the country has been somewhat cursed over the years. Huh?

Huh? for the road


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