ONE FC welterweight champion Ben Askren may already be persona non grata in UFC circles, but that hasn't stopped the back-and-forth between he and UFC President Dana White from reaching new heights. In the aftermath of Askren's criticism of the UFC's decision to sign former WWE star CM Punk, White floated a curious theory as to why the former Olympian won't be seen inside the Octagon anytime soon.
"The thing is with Ben Askren is that Ben Askren doesn't really want to fight here, in my opinion," White recently told UFC.com. "People that are close to him say the same thing. The guy is making a ton of money to fight nobodies, but when you talk and you say a lot of things it keeps your name out there. Trust me when I tell you this, Ben Askren does not want to fight in the UFC. Believe me when I tell you that."
To that, Askren had a simple response.
"It's just blatant lies," Askren said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "Everything he told you is just a blatant lie about me."
A 30-year-old standout wrestler who served as Bellator's long-reigning 170-pound champion, Askren created somewhat of a stir in late-2013 after being denied entry into the UFC.
At the time, promotion officials cited Askren's inexperience as the reason for the UFC's disinterest, with White infamously suggesting that Askren instead sign with WSOF and pick up a few more wins -- a suggestion which Askren was more than happy to drag back out last month when the UFC secured the services of an untested rookie like CM Punk.
Askren ultimately inked a lucrative two-year deal with Asian powerhouse ONE FC and became the promotion's welterweight champion in short order, finishing Bakhtiyar Abbasov and Nobutatsu Suzuki inside the first round to extend his undefeated record to 14-0. He continues to serve as an integral member of Milwaukee's Roufusport camp, which houses current UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, and in an ironic twist he will effectively become CM Punk's coach when the former professional wrestler begins training at Roufusport this week.
But that doesn't mean Askren is taking White's claims any lighter.
"First he said I wasn't skilled enough, and that was laughable to anyone who knew anything about MMA. Then, when they signed a 0-0 fighter, it became more about, ‘wow, really'?" Askren said.
"There was a bunch of other stuff that he said, but at the end of the day, the only real mutual acquaintance we have would be Anthony Pettis, the champ, and I've never said anything of that manner to Anthony. I mean, the only thing that he could possibly equate with that is I said: if I do go to the UFC, I want to be paid fairly. So maybe he assumes that because someone wants to be paid fairly, they don't want to fight in the UFC. But other than that, I couldn't think of anything I would've said that would've been inclined towards making someone think that."