Touted Brazilian jiu-jitsu wiz Kron Gracie made his awaited UFC debut a success by submitting Alex Caceres (watch it here) on the main card of last night’s (Sun., February 17, 2019) UFC on ESPN 1 from the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona.
Gracie earned a ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus for his effort, but more importantly, he announced his presence in the UFC. As a member of the decorated Gracie family that essentially founded the UFC, the pressure was on. Gracie picked up the first UFC victory by a member of his family since 1994. And while he was cornered by Nate Diaz, even Conor McGregor offered praise to Gracie.
But there’s one outspoken name who isn’t as sold on the performance. Not surprisingly, that’s UFC loudmouth Ben Askren, who makes his opinion known on any and all topics MMA these days. “Funky” spoke up on social media today to point out that while jiu-jitsu may be getting the attention, it’s actually wrestlers who are ruling the UFC:
“Not trying to start a fight but….. wrestlers hold 7 of 8 male ufc titles and people are meh….. 1 high level BJJ guy chokes a very low level grappler and people be like #BJJ4life”
Not trying to start a fight, eh? Well, that’s certainly what (predictably) happened anyway. As you can imagine, fans came out of the woodwork to argue the ins and outs of Askren’s claim.
It is true that most of the current male UFC champions do have wrestling in their base. You could say it’s almost a requirement at this point, because it is. But having a strong set of grappling skills – most likely rooted in Brazilian jiu-jitsu – is almost as imperative in today’s MMA.
For example, UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier is a BJJ black belt. So is welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. Middleweight champ Robert Whittaker has his brown belt. So while their beginnings are rooted in wrestling, it’s clear that athletes can’t succeed at the top levels of the UFC without a wholly well-rounded bag of tricks.
Askren may be just looking to rile up the public, and he’s once again accomplished that goal. Comparing wrestling to BJJ is becoming more and more muddied as it becomes apparent top fighters have to be well rounded.
But Askren is back in the spotlight heading into his Octagon debut at UFC 235, and that’s just where he wants to be. It’s also where he shines.