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Ben Askren says at this point, UFC move 'probably never will happen'

ONE Championship

No matter where he is and what he's doing, Ben Askren knows the exact moment when a UFC fight starts going south. That's when all the Twitter chatter starts flooding his phone from an army of bored fight fans -- first a trickle, then a steady stream of wondering, grumbling, or even boasting about how those schlubs on-screen could get a UFC contract when Askren couldn't, inadvertently propping the ONE welterweight champion up as a strange sort of benchmark by which to gauge the UFC's talent pool.

"Every weekend," Askren told "Every weekend it's on my Twitter. I don't know, I think it's kind of becomes a rallying cry for the people who realize Dana (White) is doing a lot of stupid things. I think I'm the thing that people can point that's the easiest one, that everyone can commonly agree on that Dana f**ked this one up. We all know he messes a lot of things up, but I'm the easiest one to point out. I think that's where it comes from, that a lot of people don't like the things that he does and I'm the easiest thing to point to, see how he blew something."

The shaky relationship between Askren (14-0) and the UFC is at this point well-documented. The promotion showed little interest in signing Askren last year despite his effortless run as Bellator welterweight champion and Olympic credentials to boot, forcing Askren to instead secure a deal with Asian-based ONE Championship.

Askren went on to capture the ONE title and is now set to defend it against Luis Santos on April 24 in Manila, Philippines. His accomplishments, though, have done little to mend the rift that exists between he and UFC President Dana White, who has repeatedly claimed that Askren doesn't really want to fight for his organization at all.

While Askren has gone on record dismissing those assertions as nothing more than "blatant lies," White's stance remains the same.

"He changes those answers every couple months. That's been his answer for the last couple months, that, you know what, I don't want to do this anyway. So I mean, I don't know. I guess he's got to placate fans somehow," Askren said.

"I figure maybe he just tells them something then they won't ask anymore, but then they keep asking and he says something else. Maybe he thinks eventually he's going to strike some kind of note where fans say, ‘oh yeah, that makes a lot of sense.' But he hasn't figured it out yet."

The endless back-and-forth can get tiresome for Askren, even if he can't help but laugh whenever things grow too silly, like when an innocuous photo of himself and UFC matchmaker Joe Silva created a minor stir, or when top UFC welterweights like Rory MacDonald decide to throw some shine his way. At this point, though, Askren admits he's growing resigned to the idea that most of those debates may never be resolved.

"A lot of sports, they don't have those roadblocks, I would say. In wrestling, if you want to be the best wrestler, you show up at the U.S. Nationals, if you win that, you go to World Team Trials, you make the World Team, you go to the World Championships, and we all know who the best is at the end of the year," Askren said.

"I mean, I think people realize that I'm one of the best welterweights, whether I'm number-one, or number-four, or number-five, or number-six. They know I'm up there, they just don't know where because I haven't been able to fight those people. So I think there's a lot of people who are really interested to see how good I really am, because they know I'm good, but they're not really sure how good. They want to see that and there's definitely interest in that, but because of some other people's shortsightedness, maybe it never really happens. It probably never will happen."

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