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Unlike Ronda Rousey, Ben Askren didn’t want to hide away after his loss to Jorge Masvidal

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Ben Askren had never tasted defeat in his mixed martial arts career. Then he suffered his first loss in just about the worst way possible.

Back in July, the 2008 Olympic wrestler was the victim of the fastest knockout in UFC history when Jorge Masvidal blasted him with a flying knee that immediately knocked him unconscious.

Hours after UFC 239 ended, Askren expressed his feelings on Twitter with a simple statement: “Well that sucked.” Even after that, he didn’t hide from the loss. Instead, he addressed it almost immediately, facing a swarm of criticism he knew would come after such a dramatic ending.

Months later, Askren is candid about his rivalry with Masvidal, the flying knee, and coming back from the first defeat he’s faced since the Olympic games in China more than a decade ago. Rather than run away from questions about the loss or sulk in the corner, Askren faces the fight with Masvidal head-on. After all, that’s what he’s had to do to move forward.

“I think that’s the worst thing you can do,” Askren said of fighters who don’t address their losses. “I mean obviously if you want to point to who did it the worst was Ronda [Rousey].

“I always feel like I want to tell my story the way I want to tell it, and if you hide in the corner, everyone else is going to talk about what you’re going to do. Listen, it happens. It’s part of the sport or even life for that matter. Losses happen. I think the best thing you can do is say, ‘That happened. What am I going to do now?’”

Former UFC champion Ronda Rousey faced a ton of criticism in 2015 after she was knocked out by Holly Holm in her first professional loss. She went to great lengths not to talk about it and even reached an agreement with UFC president Dana White to avoid all media ahead of her next fight against Amanda Nunes in 2016.

Rousey again failed to face the music following that loss. Eventually, she spoke out about what likely was the final fight of her career. But by then, months had passed.

“I think that lack of candor on her part leads to a lot of speculation from everybody else,” Askren said of Rousey. “If she sets the record straight, it sort of shuts all that down.”

As far as officially moving past his knockout, Askren hopes to get back on track when he faces Demian Maia in the upcoming UFC Fight Night card from Singapore on Oct. 26.

It might seem like a quick turn around considering how Askren was knocked out in July. But as an athlete who takes brain trauma very seriously, he wouldn’t have accepted the fight if he wasn’t 100 percent ready to go.

“I feel like he hit me in the neck because I never had any head pain, no headaches, no nothing ever,” he explained. “They gave me the 45-day no-contact suspension, so I abided by that. But really the UFC hit me up a week later and said, ‘Do you want to main event in Singapore?’ Prior to that, I figured I’ll sit out for 45 days, take the time off and maybe take December. The Las Vegas card looked like a big one. Then they offered me the fight.

“I talked to a few of my buddies who are doctors about head trauma issues, and they’re like ‘It’s OK. Let’s do this.’”

Askren has gone to great lengths to protect himself from any long-term damage suffered from fighting. It was important to get proper medical clearance before he signed on to do battle with Maia in October.

“I don’t pretend to be a brain trauma expert, but my buddy, he’s a neurologist and we talked at length about it,” Askren said. “He said if there’s no symptoms after the fact – there’s no headaches or anything – if you don’t have to rush back, don’t rush back and take your 45 days off ... I think you should be fine.

“So I listened to him, but obviously I feel like I take adequate precaution in my training to minimize that kind of stuff. That is something I definitely think about.”

One knockout isn’t going to deter Askren from his ultimate goal: To win the UFC welterweight title and prove he’s the best fighter in the world. But he’ll never do that at the expense of his own health.

“Obviously, if you look at any of my other fights, I’ve taken very, very little damage throughout the course of my entire career,” Askren stated.

“Because if there was a choice between fighting now and/or being present in my children’s lives and running businesses, obviously I’m going to choose being present in my child’s life and running businesses later because I know I’ll have success in those, just like I had success in fighting.”