"People see it as a way out" - Ben Askren on the recent influx of high level wrestlers from Dagestan

Ben Askren (left); Islam Makhachev (right)
Ben Askren (left); Islam Makhachev (right)
Johny Payne

Ben Askren has addressed the recent influx of high-level wrestlers from Dagestan, Russia, in the combat sports realm, and has attributed it to financial factors.

The former Olympic wrestler and multi-time MMA champion suggested that many Dagestanis utilize wrestling to improve their lives from a monetary standpoint. In an edition of the Lex Fridman Podcast, Ben Askren stated:

“From that area [Dagestan], so, obviously, they all love [wrestling]. Like, it’s a big deal. Wrestling, specifically, is a big deal there. They do Sambo also, obviously. So, that’s a part of this. A lot of the kids are doing it. They, obviously, are rough tumble, tough life. And then, I think that also for a lot of them, it is a way out, right? The elite-level athletes in that part of the world, from my understanding, are really well-compensated compared to what the average person makes. And they feel really well, so people see it as a way out."
"Whereas like, and then, honestly, America’s getting better. But in 2008, the reason I went to MMA was because I didn’t want to be poor my whole life. You know what I’m saying? It s**ks. Like, well, I don’t wanna make 20,000 dollars for the next 48 years, so I’m gonna go do something else. If I could’ve made even – And I didn’t need to be rich – If I could’ve made a 100,000 dollars or 70,000 dollars wrestling, I’d have probably kept wrestling. So, I think it’s those factors. And obviously, now they have a really, like, a bunch of really good people in one area. So, it’s probably; and it’s been going on for a really long time. So, there’s probably been a bunch of like, adults and coaches that are coming back and helping that progress. So, yeah, a lot of those things that happen.”

Watch Ben Askren’s conversation with Lex Fridman in the video below:

Ben Askren retired from MMA, whereas Dagestan’s Islam Makhachev aims to be the next dominant force in the UFC

Ben Askren retired from MMA in 2019. The former UFC fighter’s most recent professional combat sports contest was a first-round TKO loss against Jake Paul in their professional boxing match this April.

Following his loss to Paul, ‘Funky’ has consistently maintained that he’s unlikely to compete in any professional combat sports match again. Regardless, Ben Askren enjoys a successful career as a wrestling coach and is hailed by many as one of the greatest wrestlers to have ever competed in MMA.

Meanwhile, keeping in line with Askren’s and many others’ praise for Dagestani wrestling and overall combat skills, Dagestan’s Islam Makhachev is being touted as the next dominant force in the UFC’s most competitive weight class.

The consensus is that Makhachev is likely to capture the UFC lightweight title in 2022, following in the footsteps of fellow Dagestani wrestling savant Khabib Nurmagomedov, and reign as the next dominant 155-pound UFC champion.

Edited by Josh Evanoff
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