Ben Askren already has a roadmap drawn out in his head for how 2019 is going to go.
Askren, the undefeated former Bellator and ONE Championship welterweight king, traveled to the United Kingdom this week, ostensibly to pick a fight with the winner of UFC London’s main event between contenders Darren Till and Jorge Masvidal. Askren predicted that Till will emerge victorious from the contest and has made the Liverpudlian the target of his many callouts. And as Askren told fans in London on Friday, he believes that Till will be the final step he needs to clear to earn a shot at UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.
“I think when I beat up Darren Till, they’re going to have no other choice but to throw me in there against Marty,” Askren said Friday at a rowdy fan Q&A for UFC London fight week.
“Here’s what it comes down to. It comes down to the fan push. And you guys are dipshits and you’re booing me, but — there we go, come on — you know the numbers don’t lie. And the reason they were forced to trade for me was because everyone wanted to see me, and that’s what it comes down to. And now after UFC 235, the numbers have been insane. So once I beat up Darren Till, the numbers will go through the roof even in England, and they’re going to have no other choice than to put me in there and let me beat up Marty.”
Askren and Till share a rivalry that began long before Askren was even traded to the UFC. The two have exchanged countless shots on social media over the past year and even shared a humorous moment at Friday’s Q&A when Till emerged from behind the stage curtain with his middle fingers raised high in the air, shouting “F*ck Ben Askren!”
Askren’s teammate, Tyron Woodley, also handed Till the first loss of the Englishman’s Octagon career with a second-round rout back in September 2018 at UFC 228, so the history between the two welterweights goes deeper than just the obvious.
Till has thus far resisted Askren’s attempts to goad him into a fight, instead maintaining that he wants a title shot against Usman if he defeats Masvidal at UFC London on Saturday night.
Askren, however, is already raring to go against Till — and he even has a date in mind for the two welterweights to finally settle their rivalry.
“As soon as they want, I’m ready,” Askren said. “Next week. Two weeks. You know what I think? I bet Darren’s never been to Chicago. It’s quite a nice city, and I’d like to invite him to Chicago on June 8th [for UFC 238].”
Considering his exploding popularity since his controversial UFC 235 debut against Robbie Lawler, Askren said that he believes a victory against Till will be the last hurdle standing in his way before he gets a shot at Kamaru Usman, who is expected to first defend his title against interim champion Colby Covington sometime this year.
And once the time comes to face off against Usman, who Askren jokingly refers to as “Marty,” the former Olympian says the gameplan against the UFC champion will be simple.
“It’s easy,” Askren said. “I’m going to outwrestle him. He’s not a very good striker, and if you look at our wrestling backgrounds, mine’s far superior. I’m going to outwrestle him. It’s that simple.”
But Askren also didn’t limit his options.
When asked about taking on a different current UFC champion, lightweight titleholder Khabib Nurmagomedov, “Funky” said that he’d be more than happy to give the undefeated sambo master a taste of his own medicine to close out 2019.
“That would be awesome, wouldn’t it? I’m thinking maybe October,” Askren said. “I’ll plan that one for October after Darren gets a good dose.
“I think I take Khabib out by wrestling him,” added Askren. “I kinda do to him what he does to everybody else.”