Ben Askren will contest his last fight when he meets Japanese submission specialist Shinya Aoki at ONE Championship Immortal Pursuit on Nov. 24, but the welterweight champion has suggested that a bout with a UFC welterweight champion could lure him out of retirement.
Adding fuel to the 33-year-old’s comments on this week’s edition of The MMA Hour, ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong claimed that he would be open to Askren facing a UFC champion, once Askren’s friend Tyron Woodley did not occupy the belt.
According to Sityodtong, a fight with a UFC champion would help Askren cement his legacy as “the best welterweight in history.”
“If you ask experts in the martial arts world – like myself who has been doing martial arts for over 30 years – the people who are in the know in America and around the world know that Ben Askren is the single best welterweight on the planet,” said Sityodtong on the ONE Championship Immortal Pursuit conference call on Wednesday.
“I would love to see UFC vs. ONE Championship welterweights go at it. Ben is also a great friend of the family and a good friend of mine as well. Anyone other than Tyron (Woodley), I would love to see that as Ben’s final match, against the UFC welterweight champion.
“Again, if you ask experts from the martial arts community – anyone in the know – they’ll tell you that Ben is the best welterweight in the history of the sport.
“I have personally seen Ben in training destroy UFC champions. I’ve seen him do that to BJJ world champions. Ben is a monster. He will go down as the greatest welterweight in history, especially if we’re able to get a matchup with a UFC champion other than Tyron.”
Later, Sityodtong claimed that he had taken umbrage to some comments made by the UFC in Asia recently, and for that reason he would love to prove that ONE Championship fighters are as high level as the athletes on the UFC’s roster.
“A few month ago UFC threw an event in Asia and some of the things they said in the media over here were inaccurate and some were blatantly false,” he said.
“I felt the need to defend my athletes, whether it’s Ben Askren, Shinya or Angela Lee – they are among the greatest martial artists on the planet, if not the greatest in their individual divisions.
“I think UFC has done a amazing job in the western hemisphere with their formula and I think that we have done an amazing job in the eastern hemisphere with our formula.
“There is a global market, just like with any other industry with Apple and Samsung, General Motors and Toyota or Amazon and Alibaba. There is UFC and ONE Championship and they control their respective hemispheres.”
Askren will continue to work with ONE Championship as a matchmaker in his retirement and claimed that he is glad to closing out his career against a legend like Aoki, who he has previously trained with.
“He is definitely the biggest name (I have faced),” said Askren. “You’ve got to remember that Shinya was a big deal in Japan when I was watching fighting when I was a college wrestler, before I was even fighting.
“Shinya Aoki was a superstar. He’s a guy that’s been around the block, he’s fought a laundry list of names and as far as him being the biggest name…he’s definitely the biggest name, he’s a legend of the sport.
“I have been watching him longer than I have been fighting myself.”