Inside Jorge Masvidal’s epic flying knee knockout at UFC 239

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Jorge Masvidal had one of the all-time great knockouts on Saturday, landing a flying knee strike on his opponent, Ben Askren, just five seconds into the UFC 239 bout. The result was the fastest knockout in UFC history. Masvidal, who trains with American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida, did not come up with this plan on the fly. In fact, according to his coach Mike Brown, it had been in the works for months.

ESPN’s Ariel Helwani had Masvidal, Askren and Brown all on his Monday MMA show to look back at the epic finish. Here’s how it went down, in their words.


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Before the KO

Masvidal, Brown and striking coach Paulino Hernandez began training camp for UFC 239 a few months ago. It was at the start of camp that Masvidal had the idea to begin the fight this way.

Jorge Masvidal: Once it got announced, I was like, ‘I’m going to beat this guy’s ass for 14 minutes’ and then I decided, ‘You know what? I’m going to check him right out the gate and see where he’s at.’ And then when I came in and saw him in the flesh and saw how weak he is … on the fly he can’t do anything. He can’t talk to nobody, especially if it’s just me and him. So to have those type of characteristics, you can’t adapt and survive and he showed it.

I knew he couldn’t handle improvisation. … He can’t handle changes, and I hit him with a nice little change of speeds. He didn’t like it one bit.

Mike Brown, coach at American Top Team: Jorge told me that this was how he wanted to start the fight a few months ago. We ordered some fresh, new knee pads. Started getting that timing down. Started incorporating that in the sparring.

It’s hard to train for. You got to be safe. You don’t want to kill your training partners. Jorge has a really good feeling for technique and things like this. He was doing it as safe as possible, trying to find that timing with his training partners without killing them. That’s the tough part. He was, all the way down to the last day, drilling that technique. Literally the day of, we were in the cage messing around with it so he could get his footwork and his timing right. He delivered.

[Masvidal] did over 100 [reps]. It’s just like anything. How many jabs does he throw, how many crosses does he throw. It’s all little pieces of the puzzle.

He thought that ‘If I can’t get up from being taken down, then I’m not in this fight anyway.’ He believed in his wrestling and wanted to bring some heat early and make him pay early, so he wasn’t afraid to take some risks.

What I knew is how big this was going to be. How everything has been developing. How great he looked in his last fight, the buildup for this fight. I thought, ‘He might knock him out right away with this thing. And if he does, this is going to be crazy.’

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1:14

Jorge Masvidal’s coach, Mike Brown, joins Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show to discuss how they practiced the flying knee that knocked out Ben Askren.

Ben Askren: I was ready for knees and I did say to [coach] Duke [Roufus] multiple times in the back room, I think he’s going to try something crazy right away. If you remember the [Darren] Till fight, he ran across the ring and kicked Till in the balls like in the first four seconds. I just had an inkling that he was going to try something right away, and I kind of always thought like, ‘Who the hell gets flying knee’d? Can’t you see that coming? It’s coming from so far away.’

At the same time I was feeling great. My shape was outstanding, everything was really feeling on point. I had made some good improvements in my jiu-jitsu. I was feeling really good, so going into the fight if you said, ‘Hey, do you need to make some changes?’ I would have said, ‘No, I feel great. I think everything is going well.’

I had such a nice path set up, and I did it for myself. Jorge Masvidal was my pick. I went to London. I said I was going to fight the winner of Till-Masvidal — I got it. That was who I wanted to fight. And that was my path to a title, and I had created all this hype and all this momentum and I was right where I wanted to be. I was right on the precipice of having that title shot against [UFC welterweight champion Kamaru] Usman if I go and win that fight on Saturday night.


During the KO

Askren: I’ve been in this game for 10 years — I haven’t really ever got hit hard barely at all. Never really been rocked, never been dropped. I was almost getting to the point where I don’t want to say I was careless, but I kind of thought I was almost invincible or just had a tough skull. It was a hell of a hit, but I was proved wrong on Saturday night.

I see a few people saying that Jorge got lucky. That’s not lucky, man. Is it going to happen 100 out of 100 times? Definitely not, but landing a knee like that takes a lot of skill. I couldn’t do such a thing, but at the same time I didn’t get my ass kicked for 15 minutes and get stuffed on 13 takedowns and just beat up. And people say, ‘Oh, he sucks.’ It’s like, man, I got caught with a flying knee. I got knocked out. There’s not much I can do about it.

Masvidal: I was OK with all scenarios that could happen. If I missed and he took me down, I would scramble right away. If I just completely miss and he was nowhere near me or if I hit him in the chest and we kept going, I had all the scenarios in my head and I was comfortable with all of them. I just had to put that guy away and show him he’s not in this league. He’s not at that level.

It was a really good moment because I got to silence a lot of individuals and one in particular that I didn’t like too much and people were very high on. But this ain’t my proudest moment.

After landing the flying knee, Masvidal landed two hard punches to Askren’s face. Some considered the shots to be unnecessary as it was clear Askren was unconscious.

Askren: It happens. I knew what I signed up for. Do I like Jorge Masvidal? No. If you asked me before the fight if he knocks you out, is he going to take a few extra shots, I would have said, ‘Yup, he definitely is.’ So if that’s what he wants to do, that’s fine.

Masvidal: That’s a dude who took it personal. I would say it’s business. I had to give him those two punches — the referee hadn’t pulled me off. I’m doing my job.

Brown: Look what Askren did in the Robbie [Lawler] fight. He was crushed in that and came back and won. You gotta make sure the guy doesn’t get back up. It wasn’t far off from that. In the spur of the moment you’re reacting so quickly, you just keep hitting him until the ref pulls you off. Sometimes those guys look dazed and confused and the next thing you know you’re on your ass. You keep swinging until the refs stops you.

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0:54

Dana White calls Jorge Masvidal’s flying knee on Ben Askren “one of the most vicious knockouts” he’s ever seen in his life. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.


After the KO

Askren: There’s a little part of my memory that’s blank there, but man, you know I remember being in the cage with him. I don’t really remember the flying knee. And then when I can recall, I remember everything — I was like oh s—. I lost to Jorge Masvidal. This freakin’ sucks. Everybody else was more worried about me than I was worried about myself, and I didn’t really have any pain of any sort, not a headache, nothing on my face hurts, and so it was like, ‘Ah, Jesus, I lost to Jorge Masvidal.’

How did I lose to him? How fast was it? I could tell that it was pretty fast because I wasn’t sweaty or sore or anything, so I knew it was fast, didn’t know exactly how fast it was. Apparently I set a record of some sort.

[My wife Amy] was fine. I think she was sad. We had an after-party to go to. I felt fine, so we grabbed some food. I had a lot of friends in town, so I got to see my friends. I slept in Sunday, I went to the pool, hung out with some friends, took a nap and went to dinner with them and enjoyed their company. So obviously not under the terms that I would have really envisioned them being under, but nevertheless got to see a bunch of good friends, and that was fun.

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1:27

Israel Adesanya gets hyped watching Jorge Masvidal’s flying-knee knockout of Ben Askren at UFC 239. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.

After being helped up and out of the cage, Askren immediately went to the hospital for tests.

Askren: It couldn’t have been long. I can’t tell you exactly what time I went into the cage, but I can tell you that Jon Jones was still fighting when I was figuring stuff out. Jon Jones was still fighting and then I think I was out of the hospital before 10 p.m., so whatever the math on that is.

I’m not a doctor. I believe [I had] a CT scan and something else. They said their tests didn’t show anything, obviously. But the fact that I went unconscious, I believe that’s defined as a concussion.

Askren told Helwani on Monday he suffered no serious injuries. Pride was the only thing that took serious damage.

Askren: What am I going to do about it? Cry? Ask for a rematch? I don’t deserve a rematch. I got knocked out in five seconds. Ariel, sometimes life doesn’t go your way. Sometimes you get your ass kicked, sometimes you lose. You don’t have to like it, but you have to accept it.

While speaking with media after the fight, Masvidal said he believes he deserves to be considered for the next UFC welterweight title shot.

Brown: We’ll cross that bridge [between Colby Covington and Masvidal] when it gets there. It’s a nice problem to have. Both are amazing fighters. That’s life-changing money. They are both deserving and, without a doubt, world-class badasses.

[Jorge has] always been amazing on the mic and a cool personality. I’m surprised they never gave the mic earlier or pushed him because he’s a star. Without a doubt. His fighting speaks for himself, but he’s a star. Really sincere and a bad dude. He’s been fighting on the street since a teenager. He’s skilled and game as they come. I’m surprised they didn’t give him the push earlier.

I noticed [the improvement] before the Till fight. I asked him what he thought it was. He had some personal things going on, some lifestyle changes where he got some drama out of his life. I noticed this in his conditioning. His conditioning was a lot better. He said, ‘I got rid of all the drama. My head is clear.’ I noticed it.

Masvidal: I want to fight the world’s best. I don’t want to take another step back in my career. I’m too old to be taking these steps back. … To put this guy in there, I can’t believe the [Nevada State Athletic] Commission sanctioned that. Let me tell you something, the UFC is going to have a problem if they keep letting this guy fight. They’re probably going to have a lawsuit from hell … this mother f—– needs to just quit. I changed that mother f—–‘s life.

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