Ben Askren took aim at just about every ranked welterweight on the roster when he was brought into the UFC. The former Bellator and ONE Championship titleholder went after them all with barbs on Twitter and in interviews.
Very few were spared. One of those was Tyron Woodley, the UFC’s welterweight champion and Askren’s longtime friend and teammate. Another one? Robbie Lawler, the former champ and a man who approaches pre-fight hype like a child would socks as a Christmas gift.
Lawler believes he has an idea why Askren didn’t include him on some of those scathing tweets. He said he’s not surprised that Askren hasn’t trash talked him at all leading up to their UFC 235 fight Saturday in Las Vegas.
“Not really, because it would fall on deaf ears anyway,” Lawler said. “I’m not sure, I don’t really get on [social media]. Do they come back at him? I don’t know. I wouldn’t know about it. I’d be like, OK whatever.”
Lawler (28-12, 1 NC) just doesn’t get engage in trash talk and never has during his impressive 18-year career. And for matter, he seems to be vaccinated against trash talk from opponents. Not many have tried to talk crap about “Ruthless” and those who have only received silence in return. This is a man who has literally fallen asleep at press conferences.
However, Lawler seemed to be having a ball at the UFC 235 on-sale press conference last month in Las Vegas. Askren and Woodley were teaming up to rag on Woodley’s challenger Kamaru Usman. Jon Jones, who defends his light heavyweight title against Anthony Smith, was getting some energy from a boisterous group of fans who were trying to heckle Smith. Askren was cracking jokes at the mild expense of UFC president Dana White. And there was Lawler, in the back row, laughing heartily.
“I don’t really spend too much time on this or that,” Lawler said of trash talk. “‘This guy says this.’ Some of the shit he says is funny, but other than that I don’t really dive too deep into what if or why didn’t he say this or who he’s calling out. I just laugh at his jokes and keep moving to where I need to go.”
Askren has a theory, which he shared at that press conference, that White pitted Askren against Lawler in Askren’s UFC debut to get him beat right away. Lawler with his heavy hands and good takedown defense, on paper, seems like a difficult matchup for the former Olympic wrestler Askren. White, who has had an acrimonious relationship with Askren, denied that. Lawler doesn’t think it’s true, either.
“I don’t know about that,” Lawler said. “It’s just a good fight. Obviously, he’s a ONE champion, a Bellator champion. Undefeated. And they’re forcing him to fight and they know I’m coming to fight. I know how to wrestle a little bit. So, I mean they’re hoping for an exciting fight. I’m not too worried about what so and so thinks. I’m just not.”
Lawler, 36, said he’s done some film study on Askren. It is unique in a sense because Askren has rarely been challenged in his career en route to an 18-0 (1 NC) record. Lawler said that didn’t matter when looking at tape.
“I don’t really care who he’s fighting,” Lawler said. “I just care how he moves, how he sets stuff up and his movement patterns. I don’t really care who’s out in front of him. There might only be [tidbits], because he’s freakin’ dominating them, but there are little pieces that I could pick up and see what he likes to do. It’s all about those little things.”
Lawler isn’t much of a fan of MMA as a spectator unless his teammate are fighting. He’d much rather be watching football. But he did say he had a knowledge of Askren and his abilities.
“I knew he was a hell of a wrestler,” Lawler said. “Very funky. And he’s a winner. Can’t take that away from him. He’s fought a bunch of times, hasn’t lost. He figures out a way to get the job done. People might not appreciate his style or this or that. But he figures out a way to win and his competitiveness is huge. That’s what I knew about him.”
So, it’s not surprise that Lawler is expecting something of a wrestling-heavy attack from Askren on Saturday. And that’s fine for Lawler, who has spent this training camp at Hard Knocks 365 training with the likes of former All-American wrestler Logan Storley and others.
“That’s what Askren does — he wrestles,” Lawler said. “He mixes up his strikes here and there. And I mean, obviously you just can’t wrestle the whole time, so he’s gonna be smart and look for opportunities to strike right into wrestling. I’m not worried too much about what he’s doing. I’m just gonna go over there and have some fun in Vegas and enjoy myself and try to beat his ass.”