Ben Askren has taken aim at just about every welterweight on the UFC roster. Except for one glaring omission — the champion Tyron Woodley.
Askren was a college wrestling teammate of Woodley at the University of Missouri. The two are good friends and currently still train together. Askren is frequently in Woodley’s corner for bouts.
So despite Askren coming to the UFC following a ground-breaking trade with ONE Championship that will send Demetrious Johnson to ONE, “Funky” will not be trying for a UFC 170-pound title fight any time soon. At least as long as Woodley is the one holding the belt.
“Me and Tyron aren’t fighting, it’s simple,” Askren told Luke Thomas on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “We are not fighting. We are not fighting — no.”
Askren is the former welterweight champion of both Bellator and ONE. He is undefeated, a former Olympic wrestler and has started his UFC run in a blaze, calling out just about anyone with a Twitter handle he might end up fighting. At the top of his list are UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and former UFC welterweight and middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
It’s unclear if those are legitimate potential first fights for Askren. That’s OK, though. The Wisconsin native has called out many others, including Colby Covington, Darren Till, Stephen Thompson, Jorge Masvidal and Conor McGregor.
The best-case scenario for Askren is the UFC opening up a 165-pound division. Askren, 34, said he could make that weight with a lifestyle change; he wrestled at 163 as an amateur.
“I think there’s a lot of scenarios in which I get to prove how good I am and we don’t fight,” Askren said of he and Woodley. “They could create the 165, 175 [divisions]. I think that’s a possibility. It’s almost like the UFC is pushing back a little bit despite how much all the fighters realize it would be beneficial to us. If it were up to the fighters, they’d probably create that division tomorrow, right?
“Dana White said, ‘We’ll never have women fighting in UFC.’ And then they came upon a star named Ronda Rousey and damn, they created the division. Well, maybe the same thing is happening here. Maybe they don’t think Kevin Lee or Dustin Poirier is a big enough star. Sure, they’re great fighters. Maybe they’re waiting for ‘Funky’ Ben to come and get down. Maybe that’s what they’re waiting for.”
There’s also a possibility Woodley moves up in weight at some point, Askren said. In the meantime, Askren might have to deal with welterweight contenders, like Covington, who he has gone back and forth with since news of the trade broke last week.
“My objection is he’s a moron,” Askren said of Covington. “His lines are written for him, his wrestling sucks. And he’s appealing to the lowest common denominator of MMA fans. The people who are writing his lines are realizing the stupid shit people will react to and then he’s saying it. There’s just a much more eloquent way to say things. And it’s like if you’re so dumb and you’re so desperate that you’ve gotta play the Donald Trump card to get people interested in it — because that does get people interested in 2018. If you look at any news source, everything revolves around what Donald Trump says, right?
“I think he’s playing the lowest common denominator. I think his wrestling sucks. I think his fighting is not very good. And I just generally don’t like the guy. I think he’s a moron.”
Then there’s Masvidal, who Askren said he beat in training 10 years ago when he just started mixed martial arts.
“This is the thing about these idiots,” Askren said. “I trained with Jorge Masvidal when I’ve been training MMA for 2-1/2 months in Coconut Creek, Fla., in like December 2008. I was beating him up then! Luke, I was in MMA for 2-1/2 months and he was no problem for me. Like, give me a break, dude. He’s out here talking on Twitter, like listen, you suck. Compared to me you sucked when I was doing MMA for 2-1/2 months. Imagine what would happen now.”
Askren (18-0, 1 NC) said the best part about this situation is that fans will finally get to see if he is as good as he says he is. He’s not ducking anyone, Askren said. He’s in the UFC to prove himself.
“We didn’t know [before],” Askren said. “We don’t know if I was as good as I say I am. Nobody knows. We haven’t seen it. Everybody wants a finality, everyone wants closure and we didn’t have closure on this. And now we’re gonna get closure.
“And for me, I didn’t want to protect my record. I don’t give a damn about my record. I want to go and fight the best guys in the world and show people I’m the best. And hey, if something doesn’t go my way — I don’t think that’s gonna happen, I realize that’s a possibility in competition and that’s what happens. But we’re gonna get some finality, we’re gonna get some closure and we’re gonna see what’s going down.”