UFC president Dana White wanted to make one thing clear before he went into the details of bringing Ben Askren into his company: He said he doesn’t hate “Funky Ben,” and can’t understand why people would think so, given the unprecedented deal which brought the undefeated former Bellator and ONE welterweight champion into the company.
“We just talked, this guy thinks I hate him,” White said of Askren during the UFC 230 post-fight press conference at New York’s Madison Square Garden. “If I hated you, why would I do this deal? I’m the one who did this deal, I’m the one who came up with this deal. This was my idea. Why would I do this if I hated you so bad and didn’t want you to be here?”
Askren officially came over to the UFC in recent days as a result of an unprecedented swap which sent former longtime UFC flyweight titleholder Demetrious Johnson to the Asia-based ONE Championship in exchange for Askren, who had announced his retirement late last year.
While White didn’t offer comment on whom Askren might face in his UFC debut, aside from shooting down talk of a potential Georges St-Pierre matchup, White did say the bigger overall challenge in front of Askren is the sort of thing that excites him as a fight promoter. The undefeated Askren has long wanted his chance to prove on the UFC stage that he's one of the best in the world, and White says he’s happy to oblige.
“I’m just as excited. In this sport, you find guys who, people believe they’re great or they believe they’re great. It’s very hard to go undefeated in this sport,” White said. “I don’t care who you are, who you fought, it’s very hard to go undefeated. When you have situations like this, I love bringing people in like him to find out if they really are. It’s incredible. It’s great. In my opinion, it was a great deal for me.”
Perhaps one of the reasons Askren believed White hated him is that Askren, who was in attendance at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, had been blocked on Twitter by White. But White says that’s been rectified, too.
“I didn’t even know that he was blocked on Twitter,” White said.
“It wasn’t my first priority. I’ve been doing some s**t, you know? I’ve been busy. I had my girl who does it unblock him on Twitter.”