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This time Ben Askren letting sleeping dogs lie between him and Johny Hendricks


LAS VEGAS – During the media UFC 181 "Ultimate Media Day" on Thursday, two of the promotion’s best welterweights -- Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler -- carried the spotlight. And one -- Ben Askren -- became a sort of elephant in the room.

Askren is in Las Vegas to support his Roufusport teammate Anthony Pettis in his lightweight title defense against Gilbert Melendez. With all the attention at the MGM Grand being directed at Hendricks and Lawler for their Saturday night title fight, the curly-haired Askren -- who has a history with Hendricks dating back to their collegiate wrestling days -- stood by and bit his lip about what he could do to the UFC welterweight title picture if he were a part of it.

"I’m here for Anthony this week," he told MMA Fighting. "Hendricks is just incidental. I’m focused on Anthony retaining his title, and Hendricks is cutting weight right now so it wouldn’t be fair. I don’t know if it’s a fair mental fight to start out with, but then when you’re cutting weight, that’s just…you’ve got to have some respect, some value somewhere."

Askren is currently the welterweight champion in the Asian-based ONE FC promotion, where he hopes to defend his belt in February. Though he is widely regarded as one of the best welterweights in the world, the longtime Bellator champion Askren is behind the partition for now when it comes to competing against UFC talent.

But back in July, he and current UFC champ Hendricks -- whom he has been contentious with going back to his days wrestling at University of Missouri -- had been jawing with one another. Askren has been vocal about his prospects in facing Hendricks in an MMA bout, to the point that he’s chirped in the media about it.

During his appearance on The MMA Hour a couple of months back, Askren relayed his last encounter with Hendricks.

"I stopped him, and I said Johny, go tell Dana [White] we need to fight," he said. "His response was, ‘Dana who?’ At this point I’m so dumbfounded that he said ‘Dana who,’ I’m like…obviously you know who I'm talking about, Johny, don't be a dummy. I just started laughing, before I finished laughing, he walked off. That was our face-to-face right there. If he said I didn’t say anything to his face that’s a damn lie."

This time, however, things have been more civil. Askren and Hendricks coolly ignored one another during the fighter junket, with Askren sort of lamenting the fact that he didn’t have a digital recorder to stick under Hendricks’ nose to interrogate him.

"He just sits there, like, ‘uhn, derr,’" Askren said. "I would like, if I were a member of the media, to ask him, ‘Johny how does it feel to know you’re never really going to know if you’re the best welterweight in the world, because you can’t fight me?

"But I’m going to leave him alone for this weekend."

The 30-year-old Askren still has potentially eight more fights on his ONE FC contract (given the title clause), which means a fight with Hendricks -- or Lawler, or any other UFC property -- remains hypothetical.

Asked who he liked in the rematch between Hendricks and Lawler, which takes place at the Mandalay Bay on Saturday night, Askren didn’t hesitate.

"Anthony," he said.

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